Pilates Philadelphia PA
By Gina DeMillo Wagner
Most of us don’t think much about breathing. Instead, we breathe in and out whether we focus on it or not. But for the 20 million Americans who suffer from asthma, the ability to breathe deeply can take on life-and-death urgency. A chronic disease of the lungs, asthma causes airways to become blocked or constricted. The resulting symptoms include coughing, wheezing, and a shortness of breath that can range from minor to fatal.
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America says that asthma has no cure, but practicing Pilates can relieve its symptoms and may reduce an asthmatic’s dependence on an inhaler. “The Pilates breathing technique encourages optimal movement of the ribcage, which improves the ability of the lungs to fill with air,” says Chantal Donnelly, a Los Angeles-based physical therapist and certified Pilates instructor. In fact, Joseph Pilates used the exercises he invented to help relieve his own asthma.
In his book, Pilates’ Return to Life Through Contrology, Pilates calls this lung-developing technique “correct breathing.” Donnelly explains how it works: “Pilates strengthens the deep abdominals, which are accessory muscles used to expel air from the lungs.” Plus, exercises like Swan and Seated Spine Twist help create more room in your chest. That, in turn, makes it easier for anyone—not just asthma sufferers—to breathe more deeply and efficiently. According to Sherri Betz, a physical therapist, Pilates instructor, and board member for the Pilates Method Alliance, this breathing technique yields numerous benefits for running, hiking, swimming, and other physical pursuits. Moreover, a slew of studies report that Pilates exercises improve body awareness, help costal breathing (using your entire thorax and not just your diaphragm), increase spine mobility, and help correctly contract and expand core muscles.
To see for yourself, try this series of Pilates exercises, recommended by Elizabeth Larkam, Pilates instructor and director of the Pilates & Beyond program at the Western Athletic Clubs in San Francisco, California. The routine requires about 15 minutes and should be repeated at least three days a week. If you suffer from severe asthma, “be sure to ease into your exercise routine, since sudden changes in movement can trigger attacks,” says Betz. Other precautions: Keep your inhaler close by during exercise, slow down if you feel short of breath, and stay hydrated.
Lie flat on a mat (or other firm but forgiving surface), arms by your side. Knees should be bent, with the soles of your feet on the floor. Focus on relaxing and breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Draw deep breaths from the base of your pelvis up through your chest and exhale fully, mouth open, so that you make a “ha” sound. Be sure to let the exhale empty your lungs completely so there’s room for expansion. Repeat the breathing until your back relaxes and every verte...
Author: Gina DeMillo Wagner
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