More Than Just Breathing

Last night was my Pilates class. It’s been a couple of months since my last class due to scheduling issues. It felt great to be back and on the mat with Rose (the instructor). But I do have to say that during the first part of the class I was a little annoyed. The focus was on breathing.

We’ve all heard the saying “the pose/exercise that you like the least is the one you need the most”.

Did you hear that sigh?

That saying isn’t just an old wives tale or an urban legend. It’s a truth.

There are six essential principles to Pilates: Centering, Concentration, Control, Precision, Breath and Flow.

Pilates breathing focuses on deep inhales, complete exhales, and awareness of the body position and posture. I also found that it forced me to be in the moment. There wasn’t room for other thoughts – work, housework, writing, what’s for dinner. I also let go of the irritated thoughts I had and the question of when we’d move on to the other stuff, the fun stuff. It wasn’t until this morning I realized just how important those few minutes we spent on breathing really was.

When you do a workout, do you spend anytime on focused breathing? Or meditation?



Standing Hundreds, Anyone?

Until Monday night I thought that Hundreds were only done on the mat and that those Hundreds were the hardest exercise in Pilates. Apparently, I was wrong.

Our Pilates teacher introduced us to a whole new way to do the Hundreds.

This exercise got its name because you hold the exercise for 100 beats. 5 breaths in and 5 breaths out and repeat for a total of a 100. Legs slightly lifted, head lifted and hands beating downward in conjunction with your breaths. This exercise is usually done at the beginning of the class because it warms up your whole body. And it’s great for increasing abdominal strength.

So since it’s so good on the mat, where it does hit the abs, lets bring it up and stand while doing it. We began easy. Standing, feet hip width apart, begin breathing and beating the arms to the breaths. Simple, right? Yes. Lets lift one leg, balance on the other and continue breathing and beating the arms.

Abs are targeted but it’s your balance and body control that is challenged. Doing the Hundreds standing wasn’t any easier than doing them on the mat rather it challenged me in a different way.

And isn’t that what exercise is supposed to do? Challenge us? Whether it’s for losing weight or maintaining a certain weight, exercise should push us to step out of our comfort zone.


Twelve Breaths, Seriously?

A new week and it began with my fifth Pilates class. I’m finding that my after-work Pilates class is making Mondays bearable. Mondays have turned brutal and it’s only going to get worse so having my Pilates class waiting for me at the end of the day gives me the strength to make it until 5pm.

When I got to class last night I admit that I was impatient. I wanted to get down to the mat and do my Hundreds (huh, I used to dread that one) and do some leg work (my favorite exercises) but our teacher had other plans. We started with a breathing exercise.

Inhale for a count of one, raising both arms slightly, exhale one breath and lower arms. Inhale for a count of two, raising both arms slightly higher, exhale one breath and lower arms. Inhale for a count of three, raising both arms slightly higher…you get the idea. We continued until we reached a count of twelve inhaled breaths. Half-way through I was like, “ugh, can we move this along?”

Well, the answer was obviously “no”. We continued until we reached twelve and by that time I was less stressed, more focused and prepared to fully engage my Pilates workout.

Lesson learned? Taking the time to breathe is a good thing to do even when we have a million things to do and a million thoughts are racing around in our head. You know that to-do list we all have? Lets add breathing to it and be sure to be fully present in the breath.


It’s More Than Breathing

Tonight was Pilates class number three and tonight Rose focused on breathing. Breathing from our chest, our abdomen and our back. We spent several minutes on breathing, with each breath we pushed away the stress of the day. I admit, I’ve often thought of “breathing exercises” a bit of a time waste in a workout, come on, lets get to the good stuff. And I did wonder when we would get to the real exercises. I was wrong. The breathing exercises were necessary to fully feel the moves we did for the rest of the class. Tonight was the first night that I did engage fully in “breathing”.

Dinner was a quick microwave warm-up of chicken soup I made yesterday with a side of roasted acorn squash. Having a quick, easy fit meal after coming home after a full day of work and a workout was a blessing. Now it’s time for a cup of tea.

Do you ever spend any part of your workout focused on your breathing?


Stack Your Bones

Tonight was my second Pilates class and it was great! Where I work offers Pilates classes after work and last week I took a complimentary class to check it out. I was hooked. This past Monday was supposed to be the first class of a six-week session but it was canceled because of Hurricane Sandy.  Life is starting to get back to normal in this small area of Connecticut (in light of the severe damage along the tri-state area, we got off very lucky)but because some of the other students couldn’t come because of lack of power at their homes, Rose still held class but didn’t count it as a part of the six-week session. And, tonight I had a private Pilates class since I was the only student.

Since she noted that I had good form, good strength and in pretty much in decent shape, she decided to challenge me a bit tonight and I’m beginning to feel it. For one hour we moved from exercise to exercise and she made adjustments to my form when needed. And after a few days of poor eating (thanks to Halloween candy and no power for a little bit) I really needed this workout.  I think that this one night a week, 1 hour workout will be a great addition to my regular workouts.

Last week I loved one of Rose’s sayings, “Stack your Bones”. Slowly, precisely, bone by bone come back to a neutral position being mindful of the movement.

After the class I felt worked out, not beaten up. That’s always a good thing.

Now I just have to decide what workout I’ll do tomorrow. Right now I’m leaning toward a cardio session. A little Zumba, treadmill or the Urban Rebounder? Hmmm.