Joe Pilates, creator of the Pilates method, said, “We retire too early and we die too young; our prime of life should be in the 70s and old age should not come until we are almost 100.” Adding, “the most important thing is to learn to breathe correctly.”
Another great quote from Joe, “You are only as old as your spine. If your spine is inflexibly stiff at 30, you are old. If it is completely flexible at 60, you are young.”
Joe was correct.
In fact, it is the spine that causes us the most health problems, taking us to the doctor’s office more often than colds, flus or any other ailment. The spine keeps chiropractors in business.
And breathing properly is the best thing you can do to maintain a healthy spine.
Breathing properly means a complete diaphragmatic breath. Which, simply put, is to breathe through the nose and into the belly, putting the diaphragm through its full range of motion, contracting to draw the ribcage down, creating a vacuum that pulls air into the lungs, and then, as the diaphragm relaxes during exhalation, the ribcage decreases in size and the lungs deflate, forcing air and waste products out.
This complete diaphragmatic breath causes a subtle movement of the 33 vertebrae that make up the spinal column; when we inhale properly, using the nose and diaphragm, the expanding ribcage creates decompression, opening the space between the thoracic vertebrae, and when we exhale, the vertebrae settle back into their former position. Causing a continual lengthening and shortening while helping to keep the spine supple and healthy.
Whether you are seated at a desk, in a car, walking or exercising, the spine is affected by the pattern of your breathing. Each posture affects the position of the diaphragm and either enables or impedes its movement. Conscious breath equals conscious posture, no slumped shoulders or hunched backs.
Of course, if you are a habitual mouth-breather, making minimal use of the diaphragm while drawing air primarily into the upper part of your chest, you will not receive the natural spinal movement that is the by-product of diaphragmatic breathing. Nor will the body receive any of the other benefits of correct breathing.
Joe Pilates was, above all else, an advocate of the complete diaphragmatic breath, calling it, “bodily house cleaning with blood circulation.” He also said, “Above all else, learn to breathe correctly.