What is the link between Clinical Pilates and breathing?
Clinical Pilates along with Pilates taught by instructors and Yoga all have a strong focus on how you breathe. The reason for this is that the way you expand your rib-cage and how you use your breathing muscles (thoracic diaphragm and intercostal muscles) will influence the other muscles you use to support your body. There are techniques of how your body moves during breathing that will help to utilise an effective muscle system of support, and dysfunctional methods which will likely create imbalances.
The best way to describe the movement of the rib-cage (thorax) in breathing is to provide a visual image of how the ribs move. Each rib is fixed at the front (to the sternum) and the back (to the spine). As a result of this, each rib is designed to move like the handle of a bucket where the middle section of the rib lifts and lowers while the front and back stay fixed.
The ideal system that we use to breathe, is where each rib will move in this ‘bucket-handle’ method, resulting in the chest wall to expand out to the side with each breath in, and return on each breath out. Two common faults seen in breathing systems that cause poor thorax movement are:
- Where the thorax doesn’t move at all, and each breath in is the result of the diaphragm moving downwards into the abdominal cavity displacing abdominal contents. The result of this is tighter muscles around the upper back area (as this part locks in to brace). It also means that the abdominal wall needs to relax each time the diaphragm displaces the abdominal contents and means your belly will move outwards on every breath you take it. This naturally relaxes and disengages the transversus abdominus muscle (considered to be one of the important muscles to support your trunk and reduce back pain).
- Where the back segment of the bucket handle stays fixed and the chest wall only expands forward. This is obvious by observing an increased forward movement of the sternum on each breath in without any sideways movement of the ribs. The result of this system in increasing tightness developing in the mid-back and an in-efficient system of holding the thorax and fatigue setting in far earlier than it would otherwise.
Other breathing faults may be present and this will be part of the assessment that your physio will do with you in your Clinical Pilates session. Learning to breath properly is essential in practising a system that can be challenged with harder movements and tougher exercises as you progress with Pilates.
Book in your assessment today to discover more about how to improve your body and reduce injuries, it may be as simple as learning to breathe!
Written by Mark Fotheringham
Clinical Pilates Physiotherapist