Breathe. Breathe in, breathe out…just breathe.

August 3, 2011 at 9:01 pm 9 comments

Hot Air Balloon

Breathe!

My dear friend, Bob, would say “we are being breathed”.  He’s correct.  If you choose not to inhale ever again…well…you’ll pass out and your body will breathe you.  If you are healthy…you will inhale automatically whether you like it or not…because that’s what keeps you alive.  However, exhaling is a choice.  Indeed.  So, we must choose to exhale completely.

Breath in Pilates is just like that…because the breath in Pilates is the same as the breath in life.  Breathe in through your nose and out through your nose.  (check out the post Breathing – That’s What Your Nose Is For!2010/08/18 )Allow an expansion of your lungs and then push the air out with the aide of your abdominals.  If you empty your lungs completely (a deep, active exhalation), then you create a vacuum in your lungs.  When you release the hold and flip into inhalation…it is nearly passive meaning that the vacuum fills up on its own.  Effortless inhalation.  The more you exhale, the more you can inhale.

Breathing is easy.

If only breathing were easy.  It’s not.  We’re full of stress, anxiety, holding patterns and more.  So, in Pilates and other modalities, we have opportunities to re-learn breath.  When we have holding patterns, we have neurological connections that are difficult to retrain.  We can retrain, though, through action.  We can help with Pilates.

Rules

So…Mr. Pilates has a bunch of rules.  Rules, of course, are made to be broken and we often do break them or play with them, but let’s start with a solid structure of rules and then when advanced enough to play with them…we will, indeed!

INHALE:
1 – Inhale on effort.  Mr. Pilates believed that we ought to inhale on effort (like when we reach against springs either on the reformer or on the Trapeze Table/Cadillac) to give the body the most amount of oxygen directly when it is needed.  While this is a lovely thought, alas, it is not the truth of how our bodies work.  There is a delay in the oxygen getting into the blood stream.  It is not instantaneous.  However, this action of inhaling on effort is really effective. When we inhale, the diaphraghm drops down, ribs expand, intra abdominal pressure increases (especially with strong transverse abdominus and healthy pelvic floor).  This is a solid place from which to do strong work…your torso is really supported.  In addition, that air in the lungs gives an opportunity for space between each vertebra.  We’re in business!

2 – Inhale when lifting the spine.  Just like I said above…an opportunity for more space!  Let the air in the lungs help lift the thorax like a built in hot air balloon.  Lift the organs right off of the pelvic floor, the ribcage and spine right out off the pelvis.  Built in balloon lift!

3 – Inhale when extending the spine.  Maintain space in between the vertebrae and solid support when there is an opportunity for compression in back extension.

Inhale on effort against springs
Inhale when lifting the spine
Inhale when extending the spine/back extension

EXHALE:
1 – Exhale on the resistance all the while maintaining the space created by the inhale.  As springs compress, work with length and space to not compress.  Opposition!

2 – Exhale on forward flexion/rounding the spine forward.  The action is to empty the lungs completely…so that when you lengthen the spine again the inhalation will be effortless!  Now, that doesn’t mean that we round with compression.  We must maintain and even attempt to increase space between backbones with this deep exhalation.  So…the exhalation must be assisted with the strength of the transverse abdominus.

3 – Exhale in rotation/twisting.  While working to maintain space between all vertebrae, exhale…wring the lungs out, completely.  Then when you return to a “neutral” position…the inhalation and action is nearly effortless…the air assisting the action of creating space between each vertebra.

Now…it’s good to know that one of the actions of the transverse abdominus (TrA) is to assist in exhalation.  Studies going as far back as the 1950’s show that in resting positions or postures the TrA is pretty inactive.  If you just lay down and breath, the TrA doesn’t do much.  Even standing in a relaxed position…no TrA in the action of breathing.  However, when we are active and vigorous, TrA works automatically to aide the exhale and all we’ve got to do is consciously work it more to really get it going.  So…let’s give really strong exhales to strengthen that TrA so that we have effortless inhalations and strong muscles to support our organs and spine!

When and how to cue:

We could concentrate on the breath in every exercise from Day 1, but beginners have so much to concentrate on that it’s best to hold off on every breath cue.  It’s most effective to teach the breath of Pilates in a few exercises at the beginner level and become thematic with it in intermediate level.  Eventually, your client will have learned the breath of Pilates and do it without conscious thought in session and in life.  It’s OK for it to be a process.  We must hold back from giving everything all at once whether it be breath cues or other stabilization cues.  Too much information is just that:  too much information.  You client can’t digest it all.  Give only what’s really needed.  Take time to figure out what’s needed.  Beginners need to know which body parts to move and where to move them (technique of exercises), cues to connect to their abdominals and a few breath cues.  That’s it.  There will be plenty of time to build on these actions…layer by layer.

So…which exercises would we cue breath to teach our beginner clients?
Mat:  The Hundred, Half-Roll Down, Double Leg Stretch and Spine Stretch Forward.
Reformer:  The Hundred, Round and Twist on the Short Box
Cadillac/Trapeze Table/Tower:  Breathing and Rolling Back

That’s it?  Yup.

Cue “Deepen your abdominals in and up to empty your lungs completely”…and mean it!  Really!  In The Hundred, we have 5 counts to exhale.  How much should we exhale?  Every single molecule of air.  Yes…work hard!  You try it today.  Do your Hundred…you have 10 chances (repetitions) to expand your breath not by trying hard to take in more air, but rather by working hard to expel more air.  See how incredibly deep your abdominals get?  See how easy and enormous that inhale becomes?  Fantastic!

Try Spine Stretch Forward.  What if you stay rounded forward until you have no more air left.  Empty your lungs completely with your strong abdominals!  Then…only come rolling up when you have not a single molecule left in those lungs (you might find that you’re down there for a long time…great!)…and you’ll find that your lungs fill up with a tremendous amount of air…with no effort…so you can concentrate on lifting your abdominals and lifting the space between each back bone.  Wonderful!

If we teach the breath on these exercises listed above, then we have set our clients up for the ability to do it in other exercises as they advance.  Ultimately, you’ll teach a series of sessions to each client where your theme for the entire session…every single exercise, will be breath.  Stay within your rules listed above and work to teach your client to connect abdominals, lift of spine and breath with every exercise.

Where to breathe?

Yes, often your client will ask where should she/he breathe since we’re not doing a “belly breath”.  We breathe into the entire ribcage:  front, back, both sides.

The ribcage will naturally expand…almost bloom out at the base.  Allow it to.  Please do not constrict movement.

Allow the ribcage to expand…equally around:  front, back, both sides.  The ribcage will naturally rise/expand up at the shoulders and collar bones.  Yes, yes, indeed…allow movement.  This is normal.  Shoulders and collarbones will naturally rise with inhalation.  The shoulder girdle rides like a little row boat on the sea of the ribcage…let it float and rise as the ribcage expands.  Encourage movement.

The back will feel tight.  As though it is a solid plank.  Well…we’ve got to get busy there and use breath to open space between each vertebra, each rib, each strand of muscle.  Give images of space.

We don’t have to get all that creative to figure out some good images.  I use simple ones.  I’m sure you’ve got some good ones yourself!  I often say “Imagine you have a big pink balloon inside.  Inhale into that balloon.  Expand it completely so that it stretches your chest, the sides and back of your ribs from the inside out.  Now, exhale keeping that space, but deflate that balloon from deep inside so it shoots up narrowly through the top of your head.  Then fill up another pink balloon…”  Odd image?  Sort of…but effective and pretty much the truth of how it works…ish (that’s Yiddish for “sort of”).  Give it a try.  Create a different image…just something that maintains space and length.

Normal Life

In normal life, we don’t want to be doing a forceful exhale with every breath, but why not exhale completely all of the time.  We’re working our muscles, exercising them in Pilates so that they are at our beck and call in regular life whether it be our TrA, diaphragm, multifidous, triceps, hamstrings…you get the picture.

Please, oh, please ask me questions.  Remember, these articles are just conversation starters.  I hope you will investigate the actions of breath…real actions.  Study breath from an anatomical point of view…not just Pilates.  How do we breath, what does what and why?  Go beyond the exercises of Pilates and the cues you were taught before and that we explore in this article…and learn how our bodies work.  Then you might be surprised to see that some of what you do and were taught really follows the way our bodies work naturally at their best and other things might be the contrary.  You might choose to question and/or change them.  This is how I started studying anatomy and bio-mechanics.  I realized that some of the things I was taught were really contrary to what our bodies actually need.  That led and continues to lead me to study more and make sure that what I’m teaching is The Truth and not just intuition.  Intuition is a good starting point, but it’s not an end.  We must work to prove that our intuition is fact.  Education and understanding is awesome!

Please feel free to request a topic for me to write on.  I really enjoy your input!

Here’s what’s coming up:

(full information below…but here’s the quick list…)

August 7 Avalon, NJ
August 20&21 Istanbul, TURKEY
September 17 NY, NY (Pilates on Tour)
September 24 NYC

October 2 Rhinebeck, NY

October 22 Chicago, IL (Pilates on Tour)

November 5 NYC

December 8-10 Boston, NY

August 7
Avalon, NJ – MindBody Pilates
Workshops:

Archival Mat & Standing Exercises

archival mat/standing

There are many more versions of Mr. Pilates’ exercises than we see today.  Many Pilates teachers have never been taught many of these variations, modifications, and combinations of multiple exercises in one!   Fascinating, challenging and all the rest!  These versions should not just live in the memories of those of us who had access to them years ago.  They ought to be living, breathing exercises for those who need modification or challenge!  Experience this material, then teach it so we never lose track of these great exercises!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

9:00 AM-11:00 PM

2101 Ocean Drive

Avalon, NJ 08202

            MindbodyPilates.com

Shoulder Girdle:  A Delicate Balance

shouldergirdle

The Shoulder Girdle is a complex system.  When I first started teaching, all I knew was “pull your wings down” and “crack a walnut”.  The more I study biomechanics, the more I know there’s very little down and no cracking.  It’s a delicate balance of bone, muscles, ligaments, tendons…and constant reassessing.  Dynamic Stability is what we’re looking for.  Let’s spend time studying where we’re going with the shoulder girdle and how to get there in Pilates. We’ll take time with anatomy and biomechanics, Pilates exercises, common ailments and all of your questions.  Take a moment to review what you already know before the workshop…then we can grow from there.
Sunday, August 7, 2011

11:30 AM-1:30 PM

2101 Ocean Drive

Avalon, NJ 08202
Shoulder girdle from Gray’s Anatomy.
Creative Spine Corrector

spineThe Spine Corrector is one of the most underused yet extremely versatle pieces of equipment designed by Mr. Pilates. In this workshop, you’ll learn how to transform your Spine Corrector into one of the most useful pieces of apparatus in your studio!  You will learn how to do and teach an entire flowing workout/ session on the Spine Corrector as well as how to use just a handful of exercises to enhance a full workout.  With over 40 exercises, there’s a lot to work on and discover.  You will also learn how to organize the exercises, how to position the clients on the apparatus and where to be spot and cue the exercises as the teacher.  It’s surprising how special and important you’ll find the Spine Corrector.

Shari Berkowitz teaching the Creative Spine

Corrector Workshop in Barcelona

     Sunday, August 7, 2011
     2:30 PM-4:30 PM
The cost of these 2-hour workshops at MINDBODY Pilates is just $80 each. Save $10 if you sign up for 2 workshops, $20 if you register for all 3 and $30 if you schedule all 3 by July 15.
To register, call 609-368-8700 or online click here
www.mindbodypilates.com
August 20-21
Istanbul, TURKEY
I’ll be presenting many workshops including:
Mysterious Aches and Pains
Pilates for Seniors
Pelvic Floor
Shoulder Girdle:  A Delicate Balance
Back Problems
and…
a couple of mat workouts!
If you live in Turkey or nearby…or have friends who do…please send them to register and get more information at:
www.pilateswithgerda.com
info@pilateswithgerda.com
September 16-18 
PILATES ON TOUR – NYC
I’m teaching on Saturday, September 17 from 1:30-4:30pm
Mr. Pilates’ Archival Mat and Standing Exercises
3PMA CECs 
There are many more versions of Mr. Pilates’ exercises than we see today.  Variations, modification, combinations of multiple exercises in one!  Fascinating, challenging and all the rest!  These versions should not just live in the memories of those of us who had access to them years ago.  They ought to be living, breathing exercises for those who need the modification or challenge!  Experience this material, then teach it so we never lose track of these great exercises!
For more information and registration, go to:  https://www.pilates.com/BBAPP/V/education/pilates-on-tour/new-york.html
September 24
NYC – Real Pilates
Archival Exercise:  Beyond The Everyday – 3-6pm – $120
(3PMA CECs pending)
Joseph Pilates created somewhere between 500-600 exercises. You know some of the repertoire…it’s time to learn more. In this workshop, you will learn you rarely seen and immediately useful exercises on multiple apparatus (Mat, Reformer, Cadillac, Wunda Chair, Standing Arm Springs) all created by Joseph Pilates. You’ll leave feeling confident in the purpose and technique of teach exercise, have time to do exercises, practice teaching and ask questions. You’ll walk away with your own special archive of exercises for your strong intermediate clients…and yourself!
To register go to www.realpilatesnyc.com  
October 21-23
PILATES ON TOUR – CHICAGO
I’m teaching on Saturday, October 22 from 1:30-4:30pm
Mr Pilates’ Archival Mat and Standing Exercises –
3PMA CECs
There are many more versions of Mr. Pilates’ exercises than we see today.  Variations, modification, combinations of multiple exercises in one!  Fascinating, challenging and all the rest!  These versions should not just live in the memories of those of us who had access to them years ago.  They ought to be living, breathing exercises for those who need the modification or challenge!  Experience this material, then teach it so we never lose track of these great exercises!
For more information and registration go to: https://www.pilates.com/BBAPP/V/education/pilates-on-tour/chicago.html

October 2 
Rhinebeck Pilates
Semi Private Sessions
Creative Spine Corrector Workshop
3PMA CECs
The Spine Corrector is one of the most underused yet extremely versatle pieces of equipment designed by Mr. Pilates. In this workshop, you’ll learn how to transform your Spine Corrector into one of the most useful pieces of apparatus in your studio!  You will learn how to do and teach an entire flowing workout/ session on the Spine Corrector as well as how to use just a handful of exercises to enhance a full workout.  With over 40 exercises, there’s a lot to work on and discover.  You will also learn how to organize the exercises, how to position the clients on the apparatus and where to be spot and cue the exercises as the teacher.  It’s surprising how special and important you’ll find the Spine Corrector.

Dates, times and rates coming soon!

Go to www.RhinebeckPilates.com for more informaiton

 

November 5
NYC – Re:AB
Enhance Your Teaching Skills – 2:30-4pm
(3PMA CECs pending)
The more you teach, the more you need.  Great Pilates doesn’t come from more and more exercises.  Mr. Pilates created a set number of exercises in the classical Pilates Method.  We work within those exercises.  Great Pilates is about digging deeper and deeper in to the physical understanding of the Pilates Method.  In this workshop, Shari will teach you to see more of what you need to cue in your teaching.  We cue precision and stabilization in layers.  Develop your eye and your understanding.  If you do this, you will always be able to challenge your students as well as yourself for a lifetime of Pilates!

To register, contact Emilie at Re:AB at 212.420.9111 or by e-mail at center@reabnyc.com

 

December 9-11
Boston, MA

More info to follow.

2012:
There’s plenty in the works…but on the books already:
June 2012 – London, ENGLAND – more information to follow!
***Please share this information and tell your Pilates teacher friends and colleagues to come on over for workouts and workshops that will get your Pilates-teaching-juices flowing.***
Again, these are not your typical workshops where you might get 1 useful tidbit.  You will leave full of new teaching skills and ways to look at Mr. Pilates work.  You will have a new perspective on Pilates that will enliven your teaching and your own workouts!
Shall we set up something at your studio or the one you work at?  Clearly, I travel to teach and enjoy it!  Read below for more info!

Workshops in Your Studio:
If you are interested in my teaching workshops and/or semi-private sessions for your teachers at your studio, please contact me at info@TheVerticalWorkshop.com  I’ll be thrilled to put together a program with you for your needs!

While my vocabulary is classical Pilates, the principles behind my teaching and workshops apply to every style of Pilates.

We have countless topics to play with within technique workshops of classical Pilates and teaching skills workshop that apply to all!

*******
Sessions:
If you’re in NYC and want a Pilates session e-mail me at info@TheVerticalWorkshop.com
And I’m at Purchase College (Near White Plains/Westchester, NY) on Thursdays.

Workshops:
If you’d like a workshop and/or semi-privates at your studio, e-mail me at info@TheVerticalWorkshop.com  I travel all over the world and would be thrilled to come to you!

Consultation:
If you’d like to set up a meeting on the phone or in person to ask questions about teaching or building/maintaining your business, e-mail me at info@TheVerticalWorkshop.com

Enjoy!- Shari

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Lock Joints? Don’t Lock Joints? What Do We Do?! First Things First…

9 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Alex  |  August 4, 2011 at 7:59 am

    HUGELY!

    So kind, thanks awfully..!

    Reply
  • 2. Rachel  |  August 5, 2011 at 4:44 pm

    I always enjoy reading your blog! Thank for your ongoing pilates wisdom. I agree that too much information is just too much but I always cue the breathe because the mvmt. Is only effective if clients are breathing and engaging.
    Beyond the handful of exercises in which you cue breathing for beginners, do you focus more on the mvmt. initially as you take them through a session? Also, I’m curious to know about your big ‘aha’ moments through your own personal study versus what you initially learned. I love how pilates is a continuous journey. Thx again!

    Reply
    • 3. theverticalworkshop  |  August 8, 2011 at 2:20 pm

      Hi, Rachel,

      It’s good to hear from you!

      The movement is extremely effective even with out breath cues…but don’t get me wrong, even more effective with breath cues once they already have the movement. You see…Pilates is all about the movement and we have to layer on each next important aspect. Move first, breathe however you can breathe. Then move and breathe in the Pilates way. Of course, this is how I do it, but it doesn’t mean that’s how you have to do it. Thanks for asking!

      And thanks for asking about how I found my way to the “aha” movements of study vs. what I had originally learned. I’m not one to follow anything anyone says without questioning. I’ve always been this way. I’m more of a scientist than anything else. And in science, we come up with a theory and then work really hard to try to disprove our own theories and those of our colleagues. So, when I was in Romana’s program and asked questions, but never got answers or was admonished for asking…I was already skeptical. Then, when I went to study and get more information about what I was doing and calling Truth…my studies said different things. Vastly different things. Then, when other teachers that I respect highly were studying and doing different things…it made me question even more. So, I started to study more and more to make sure that what I’m teaching is really good,effective and The Truth.

      Does that make sense?

      Even when we go to the best teachers, we must ask questions and study more rather than follow blindly…that is my practice and it has served me very well! I encourage the same!

      I look forward to hearing from you, again, soon!

      – Shari

      Reply
  • 4. Cindy Yee  |  August 27, 2011 at 7:40 am

    Hi Shari,

    Hope this email finds u well.

    I have a question for u (not related to this topic).

    Can u explain how an overpronation or underpronation of the feet affects the body alignment and client’s gait cycle? What should we look out for and work towards it?

    Thank u so much! Looking forward to ur reply 🙂

    Rgds,
    Cindy Yee

    Reply
    • 5. theverticalworkshop  |  August 27, 2011 at 12:59 pm

      Hi, Cindy,

      It’s good to hear from you! I’m doing well, thanks! I hope you are, too!

      I will be glad to share my ideas about feet, alignment and gait. Perhaps that will be my next blog. So, hang tight…I’m on it!

      Thank you for asking!

      All the best!
      – Shari

      Reply
      • 6. Cindy Yee  |  September 4, 2011 at 3:58 am

        Tks Shari! So looking forward to it 😀

  • […] Breathe.  Breathe In.  Breath Out.  Just Breathe! […]

    Reply
  • 8. The Vertical Workshop's Pilates Teacher Blog  |  December 6, 2012 at 10:22 pm

    […] Breathe.  Breathe In.  Breath Out.  Just Breathe! […]

    Reply
  • 9. Juliet McCarthy  |  January 18, 2015 at 9:32 am

    Reblogged this on Juliet McCarthy Pilates.

    Reply

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