Monthly Archives: February 2009

That whole breathing thing

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I’m not good at breathing either. You’d think it’d come easy, but no. Of course not. It’s always the simplest things that are the most difficult. When I’m not thinking about it, I often end up slouched with stunted breath. When I do think about it I try so hard, it becomes forced and I am a prime candidate for hyperventilation. There are a billion different ways of breathing; breathing to relax, breathing for energy, belly breathing, thoracic breathing. I often tell my pilates clients that as long as they are breathing at all, I am happy. But seriously, this whole muscular training for breath is extremely important.What’s a person trying to live a balanced life to do?

First, accept it is hard. Second, keep practicing, but not too much at once. Remember our motto here is moderation. If it becomes too forced, or you are not fully exhaling, you will end up feeling lightheaded, and that can be dangerous. Stop. Go back to it later.

Here are a few breathing exercises that help me train my lung capacity and mind for pilates. Pick one that works for you and keep it in your regular exercise rotation. Believe it or not, just training your breath muscles will help tone torso muscles, this includes the abdominals, as well as massages your internal organs.

#1. Umbrella Breath

Imagine there is a umbrella in your rib cage. As you inhale the umbrella closes  along the spine. As you exhale, the umbrella expands. Counter-intuitive? Perhaps, but it works.

#2. Pelvic Balloon

Imagine a balloon rest deep in the center of your pelvis, that would be a few inches under the belly button and back deep in the center of the torso.  As you inhale the balloon expands three dimensionally, filling the lower third of the torso. As you exhale it gently deflates back into the center.

#3. Inhale like you are smelling the Room/ Exhale onto your palm like you are fogging glass, but with no blowing air, just steam.

These suggestions are from fellow instructor Mary Zorich. By inhaling like you are smelling the room, the sinus cavities naturally open! It’s amazing how the brain can affect the body functions! When you exhale, in order to feel the deep abdominal muscles, place your palm in front of your mouth and exhale like you are fogging up a mirror, but don’t allow any air pressure to be felt or blown. Only a hot humid fogging exhale.

#4. Exhale everything out.

Try to let go of all CO2 in the lungs on your exhale until you feel there is nothing left. This will compel you to take a nice, deep, full inhale on the next round.

#5. Counting 50 breaths

This exercise is compliments of Yoga Instructor and Teacher Trainer, Pam Schulte. Pam recommends taking 50 normal old breaths, but counting them down as you go. Just by taking a moment to countdown between each breath will draw your attention and keep it center on breathing. It’s not forced. It just is. Once you have counted back to 0, sit quietly for a minutes focusing on your breath, but not counting. With practice, and remaining calm and still, one will have created for themselves a rather powerful and peacful meditation.

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Finding Your Center Fulcrum Point

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There is no better place to take on the universe than from the CENTER.

Finding your own center can be a bigger undertaking than we often realize, but infinitely beneficial.

Have you ever known someone who has been fiercely into yoga or exercise, only to find that after years of practice, they have back problems?

This can be done when we overdo any activity, mental or physical, without knowledge of ourselves and without an awareness of a quiet, strong, and stable center point of balance from which to work outwards. We need one point of perfect stability. Depending on where you are in relation to your activity, gravity, etc., this point can move around. It is stable, but also must be flexible.  Finding this is a challenge for the advanced athlete and the novice who just rolled off the couch for the first time, the philosopher, and the ADD adult who’s just trying to get their to do list done.

And so to get you on the good foot, I present a simple exercise to help find a center…I’ve always refered to it as DEAD BUG.

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Lying on your back. Keeping the spine feeling long and heavy like iron from the base of the neck all the way through to the tailbone. lift the right knee (in a table top position) and the left arm up towards the ceiling, while keeping both shoulders and hips firmly down and even. Over a slow count of  5, take one long deep breath and simultaneously (and SLOWLY) switch arms and legs, while maintaining complete stillness and stability in the spine. That means, no tensing of the neck and shoulders or gluts. The belly pulls down to the back, the spine stays super long and stretched out, but does not move. Did I mention the slower you do this the better? Again the main arc: moving the arms and legs freely, but not moving the torso head and neck AT ALL.

A Matter of Balance


“When health is absent, wisdom cannot reveal itself,
art cannot manifest, strength cannot fight, wealth becomes useless
and intelligence cannot be applied.” Herophilus

“Everything in moderation, even moderation.” Oscar Wilde

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I am a Pilates Instructor, which I guess makes me a part of the fitness industry. Before you get the wrong idea about me though, I have a few confessions to make. I smoked for over ten years, only quitting 2 years ago. Have made friends with clinical depression (who hasn’t) for 20 years . I’m not tan, nor blonde. I once did public relations work for The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, so yes, I like meat. I love champagne, a good mocha, and generally anything with sugar, and I hate running or spinning or sweating too much. I’m not exactly what one might expect from a fitness instructor, but I’d rather just confess, like the recovering Catholic that I am.

On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve also worked for National Public Radio, try to eat some whole grains and veggies once in awhile, try to exercise, sometimes regularly, by finding activities I enjoy, like swimming, dance and taking up the trapeze. I love hearing life stories from my clients. I learn more from every person I meet, and I truly enjoy helping people feel a little better.

I also speak Japanese and have worked in a; costume shop, coffee house, comedy club, jazz club, italian restaurant, animation studio, trucking company, several public relations firms, a couple of pilates studios, and once as a cafeteria dishwasher. Either I have had a lack of focus in the past or I enjoy a good three ring circus.

The point of selling you my resume is that we are all human, making mistakes, stopping and starting, getting into routines, ruts, habits.  AND THAT’S OKAY. Life is messy.

It’s all a matter of balance, and balance is really just PHYSICS.