Why Should you Learn How To Breathe

BREATH

We breathe approximately 20 000 times a day, we do this naturally as an involuntary action. In Pilates we make our breath conscious and there are tremendous benefits from this.

Breathing regulates all the systems of the body: the respiratory system, the lymphatic system, the nervous system and the digestive system. All these systems are regulated by optimal breathing. With optimal breathing posture is important!

If you were sitting in a slouched position, you would be inhibiting your breath from coming into your body.

We need to create a body that enables the breath to travel as it should, up and down the body, through the body, encompassing a three dimensional breath patterning.

In Pilates, the breath is really important, it dictates the speed of the moment and the quality of the movement. We encourage diaphragmatic breathing to ensure you work optimally.

We teach our clients how to breath, cause this is a huge aspect that is missing in our lives, people are never taught how to breathe properly and therefore don’t know how to do it properly.

Book a class today: e-mail us on linda@bodysynergy.biz

Pilates Philosophy

If it’s possible to summarize the Pilates philosophy, it would be to say that mind control is necessary for muscle control. Arriving at this summation though, requires looking at all aspects and principles that make up the Pilates method.

Pilates Reformer Class
Pilates Reformer Class

“By reawakening thousands and thousands of otherwise ordinary dormant muscle cells, Contrology correspondingly reawakens thousands and thousands of dormant brain cells, thus activating new areas and stimulating further the functioning of the mind.” Another way to look at this philosophy is that, “when you work your body without engaging your mind, you are performing only half a workout. It is the least efficient way to achieve the goals you have set for yourself.” The basic principles of Pilates are better understood and defined by first learning the principles behind the Pilates technique. With this exercise method, the manner in which exercises are performed is of greater significance than the time spent exercising, or the number of repetitions. … Principles

Pilates Mat Class
Pilates Mat Class

1.Concentration: Mental focus is of primary importance with any movement we attempt to have our body carry out. Understanding where each part of the body is positioned and the interconnectedness of movements of the body is critical to attaining the necessary level of concentration. As you work with the Pilates movements, in time your concentration and the exercises will be fluid and seamlessly integrated. Example: Diminishing extraneous sounds, activity or other distractions in your exercise area. 2.Centering: The muscles comprising what Pilates considered the center are abdominal, mid and lower back, hips, and buttocks. “Pilates called this center the ‘powerhouse'”. Strength in this area of the body is essential for maintenance of overall body control and balance. By learning proper positioning of these muscles which are used in all Pilates-based exercises, one gains both abdominal strength and control which supports and provides fluidity for all the body’s movements. Example: Proper positioning for the Hundred includes pulling the abdominal muscles up and in toward your spine. This not only strenthens the core muscles but also protects the lower back. 3.Breathing: Taking deep inhalations energizes and replenishes your mind and body, while full exhalations help rid the body of toxins. “To breate correctly you must completely exhale and inhale, always trying very hard to ‘squeeze’ every atom of impure air from your lungs in much the same manner that you would wring every drop of water from a wet cloth.” Example: Once in a seated position for the Saw, with back straight, take a teep, full, inhalation followed by a full exhalation which allows you to draw your abdominal muscles in toward the spine as you turn your torso reaching toward the opposite foot. 4.Control: Control involves the previous three principles. It allows movement of the body to occur avoiding injury and promoting effective exercise movements. Every move we make in our daily activities as well as specific exercise movements should be done purposefully. Example: When performing the Roll Up, the first three principles are employed to facilitate a strong and controlled use of muscles for transition from a supine to seated position. 5.Precision: Precision is directly associated to the principle of concentration in that it requires focus. The opposite of precision based movements is movement that is sloppy and haphazard. Performing with precision requires time and training to attain the desired level of effortlessness. Example: After rolling your hips and legs back to the Plow position, the articulation of the spinal column as you lower your hips to the mat is carried out as if you were painting a stripe on the mat with your spinal column. 6.Fluidity: The Pilates method is not based on “static, isolated movements”. Whether we are going about our daily activities or doing mat work, our bodies should move in a synchronized and flowing manner. Sharp jerky movements increase the risk of injury and reduce potential toning effects. Example: When performing the Single Leg Stretch, all parts of the body are engaged and the transition from right to left leg occurs smoothly and seamlessly. … Learning and utilizing these principles to correctly perform Pilates movements will not only ensure the fullest possible benefit from the exercise, but with time, will become integral to everyday movement, posture, and sense of well being.

Running: The Exercise Paradox

 New Scientist article

The exercise paradox

Regular exercise confers huge health benefits and we evolved to be the best long-distance runners on the planet. So why does it often feel like such a chore, Anil Ananthaswamy asks evolutionary biologist Daniel Lieberman
Why did you start to study the evolution of running and exercise?
I got interested in how we hold our heads still when we run. It began when my colleagues and I were doing some experiments with pigs as models. It is very uncomfortable to watch a pig run: its head bobs all over the place. But animals that are good at running, like us, are extremely good at keeping the head still, because it is important for gaze stabilisation. We started thinking about humans and chimps, and came up with hypotheses about how we evolved head stabilisation to run.
Why do you think head stabilisation evolved for running, and not another form of movement?
If you watch someone with a ponytail running, the ponytail bobs up and down. That’s because of the pitching forces acting on the head. The head itself stays very stable. There are special mechanisms — the semicircular canals in human heads are greatly enlarged relative to apes, for instance — that give us a much greater ability to perceive and react to rapid accelerations of the head.
Walking does not create such accelerations. And I don’t think our ancestors were jumping on trampolines or hitting each other on the head so much. The only explanation we can come up with is running.
Being able to run is one thing — how did we then go on to become endurance athletes?
We evolved from very non-active creatures. A typical chimp will walk 2 to 3 kilometres a day, run about 100 metres and climb a tree or two. Your average hunter-gatherer walks or runs 9 to 15 kilometres per day, and we have all these features in our bodies, literally from our heads down to our toes, that make us really good at long-distance walking and running.
I and my colleagues at the University of Utah, Dennis Bramble and David Carrier, think the key advantage for humans was persistence hunting, whereby you run very long distances to chase animals in the heat and run them into heat stroke. We can run for very long distances, marathons in fact, at speeds at which other animals have to gallop. That’s not an endurance gait for quadrupeds, because they cool by panting — short shallow breaths. You can’t pant and gallop at the same time. If you make an animal gallop in the heat for 15 minutes or so, on a hot day, you’ll kill it.
But we have adaptations for this kind of endurance running?
Yes. Our bodies are loaded with all kinds of features: short toes that require less energy to stabilise and generate less shock when running; the Achilles tendon that stores and releases energy appropriately as we run; the large gluteus maximus muscles that steady the trunk; and stabilisation of the head. I’m a middle-aged professor, I’m not a great specimen of an athlete, but I can easily run a marathon at a speed that would cause a dog my size to gallop.
What’s your best marathon time?
[Laughs] 3 hours and 34 minutes. There are guys who can run almost twice as fast as me.
Still, if you made an animal run that far at your speed, you would…
I’d have dinner.
Why, in spite of our adaptations, have we gone from endurance athletes to couch potatoes?
It was incredibly recently in history that a large number of humans have been freed from having to do physical activity. My argument, from an evolutionary perspective, would be that not having regular physical activity every day is pathological and abnormal. In a lot of medical studies, we compare people who are sick with controls. But who are those controls? They are relatively sedentary Westerners. I’d argue that we are comparing people who are sick to people who are abnormal and semi-pathological.
From an evolutionary perspective, not exercising every day is pathological
If being inactive is pathological and abnormal, then how come we hate exercise so much?
There was never any evolutionary selection pressure to make us like exercise. If you are a Neanderthal or Homo erectus or an early modern human, you didn’t think, “Gee, I’m going to go for a run so that I’m not going to get depressed”. They had to go long distances every day in order to survive. Not exercising was never an option, so there was never any selection pressure to make people like exercise. On the contrary, there was probably selection to help people avoid needless exercise when they could. Some hunter-gatherers had diets of about 2200 calories a day. When your energy intake is that low, you can’t afford to go for a jog just for fun.
So evolution selected for traits that made us relax or be lazy?
Of course. Just like any time you crave sugary, fatty foods — that would have been advantageous for early humans. It’s only now that they have become maladaptive.
When you walk into a train station and there is a staircase and an escalator, your brain always tells you to take the escalator. Given a choice between a piece of cake and a carrot, we always go for the cake. It’s not in your best interest, but it’s probably a very deeply rooted evolutionary instinct.
What are the consequences of the modern sedentary lifestyle?
It’s hard to think of one disease that is not affected by physical activity. Take the two major killers: heart disease and cancer. The heart requires exercise to grow properly. Exercise increases the peripheral arteries and decreases your cholesterol levels, it decreases your risk of heart disease by at least half.
Breast cancers and many other reproductive tissue cancers also respond strongly to exercise. Other factors being constant, women who have engaged in regular vigorous exercise have significantly lower cancer rates than women who have not. Colon cancer has been shown to be reduced by up to 30 per cent by exercise. There are also benefits for mental health — depression, anxiety, the list is incredibly long.
What can we do about our maladaptive traits?
If we want to practice preventive medicine, that means we have to eat foods that we might not prefer, and exercise when we don’t want to. The only way to do that is through some form of socially acceptable coercion. There is a reason why we require good food and exercise in school — otherwise the kids won’t get enough of it. Right now we are dropping those requirements around the world.
If we are going to solve these health problems, we have to push ourselves to act in our own self-interest. As a society, as a culture, we have to somehow agree that it’s necessary or face the consequence — which is billions of unfit, overweight people.
Has evolution given us any instincts that promote exercise?
Yes. It’s important to recognise that the body isn’t adapted only in one way or another. There are multiple competing adaptations. While it’s true that many of our instincts are to not like exercise, we also have other adaptations that make us enjoy exercise. The most obvious example is the runner’s high.
What’s the evolutionary advantage of the runner’s high?
Imagine you are chasing an animal, and you have to keep going. When you are chasing, you are usually also tracking, which is all about observation. You are looking for clues in the environment. What does a runner’s high do? It makes everything more intense. It stimulates your perception and your sensory awareness.
I can give you an example: I ran the London marathon a few years ago, and as I was nearing the finish I remember running by Big Ben and thinking, “Wow, Big Ben is really big.” And then I remember thinking to myself, “Oh, I must be high.”

Profile

Daniel Lieberman is a professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard University. He specialises in research on human movement and endurance running, and is a keen long-distance runner

Single-Leg Stretch

Single-Leg Stretch

This exercise develops abdominal strength in stabilizing mode, holding the pelvis absolutely still as the legs perform the movement. The pumping actions of the legs should accelerate the abdominal work.

How to do it:

Inhale: Lie on your back & draw the knees to a table top position with the knees over the hips and the shins parallel to the floor. Place both hands onto the left knee. Lift your chest off the floor into a chest lift, keep your spine imprinted into the mat.

Exhale: Straighten the right leg and place both hands on the side of the knee as shown in the picture.

Inhale: Simultaneously change the legs, keeping the feet on the same horizontal plane and the legs close to the centreline of the body.

Exhale: as you straighten the opposite leg transferring the hands to the bent knee.

Continue to do so for 10 repetitions.

Muscle focus: Abdominals

Objectives: Strengthen the abdominals and to develop pelvic stability in the lumbar region

 

single-leg stretch
Single-leg stretch