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It's all about the Breath

Updated: Feb 27

Yoga and Pilates breathing practices, known as pranayama in yoga and controlled breathing in Pilates, offer several benefits for both physical and mental health:

1. Improved respiratory function: Controlled breathing in both yoga and Pilates helps to improve lung capacity and the oxygenation of the body. 2. Reduced stress and anxiety: The deep breathing techniques in yoga and Pilates help to calm the nervous system and reduce stress levels. 3. Increased focus and concentration: Controlled breathing helps to calm the mind and improve mental clarity and focus. 4. Better posture and alignment: In Pilates, controlled breathing helps to engage the core muscles, which in turn improves posture and alignment. 5. Improved physical performance: In both yoga and Pilates, controlled breathing can help to increase stamina and physical endurance. 6. Enhanced relaxation: The deep breathing techniques in yoga and Pilates can help to promote relaxation and reduce tension in the body.

Incorporating breathing practices into your yoga or Pilates routine can help to enhance the overall benefits of your practice and improve overall health and well-being.

Breathing is very important in Pilates and here is what you need to do:

1. Lateral breathing: Put your hands around the bottom of your rib cage, breathe in through your nose and into the side and the back of your lungs while keeping your belly tucked in. It’s highly detoxifying while getting rid of dead air stuck in the back of your lungs.

2. Every time when you exert, breath out through your mouth, make a silent ha sound while contracting your pelvic floor muscles (as though you are stopping the flow of urine). At the same time, you pull your belly in the whole time to engage your transverse muscles which are deep in your abs, tapping into your power house no matter what part of the body you use.

There are various yogic breathing techniques that enable you to manually control your nervous system:

Water Breathing

Restoring the balance of you nervous system immediately.

When you feel a bit frazzled, it’s best to do the water breathing in order to restore balance for your mind. Water breathing calms you down when you feel hyper and it lifts you up if you're feeling a bit lethargic. As the name suggests, you can practise water breathing anytime of the day to restore balance in your mind.

Simply do 20 rounds of Ujjayi breathing in through your nostrils for 4 seconds and out for 4 seconds. Repeat when necessary.

Box Breathing

A calming way of breathing that focuses your mind

Another effective way of calming your nervous system down is to do box breathing.

Sit up straight with the tips of the first 3 fingers of your left hand touching together forming a ring and lock with together with your right hand doing the same, symbolising a harmonious relationship of your 3 selves: your higher self, yourself and your inner child, according to Ho’oponopono, an ancient Hawaiian practice that addresses family problems.

Visualise yourself drawing a square as you do Ujjayi breathing or draw with your fingers. As you breathe in through your nostril for 7 counts, you draw the line up, then hold for 7 counts, continue drawing the line across to the right, breathe out for 7 counts, draw the line down then hold for 7, complete the square by drawing the line across to the left. And repeat 7 times.

This is also a Ho’oponopono cleaning tool and a good way to take care of your inner child according to Dr. Hew Len.

Alternate Nostril Breathing

A great way of balancing your brain hemispheres

Hold your right hand out with the palm facing you with your fingers straight, then bend down the index and the middle fingers.

Close your right nostril with you thumb and take a deep breath in through your left nostril, close your left nostril with your ring finger and lock your chin down, hold your breath, pull your belly in and pull your pelvic floor up. Then release your thumb and breathe out through your right nostril.

Breathe in deeply through your right nostril, close it with your thumb then hold your breath, lock your chin down, pull in your belly, pull your pelvic floor up then lift your ring finger and breathe in through your left nostril, close your left nostril and hold your breath with your chin down, belly in and pelvic floor up, then release your right nostril.

Breathe in with your right nostril and hold…and repeat.

By doing the bandas in your neck, your belly and you pelvic floor, you’re stimulating the vagus nerve that is connected to your parasympathetic system, inducing relaxation. This breathing has proven to reduce blood pressure.

Coffee Breathing

Also called Fire breathing to get you going!

If you need to get going in the morning or warm up before a yoga practice, you can stimulate your sympathetic nervous system with fire or coffee breathing. It would release adrenaline, wake you up and get your ready for the day!

Take a long breath in, pull your belly in sharply as though you’re blowing your nose and make a loud hissing noise with your nose, then relax your belly, breathe in half a breath and push your belly in sharply and breathe out with through your nose and repeat 20 times.

Do 3 rounds of 20 coffee breaths to wake yourself up. It’s also detoxifying and it clears your mind and helps you to focus for the day ahead.

Whiskey Breathing

As the name suggests, Whiskey Breathing induces drowsiness and sleep as you breathe in for 4 counts and exhale for 8 counts. It's an excellent breathing technique for those who suffer from insomnia. It takes your mind off the issues that are worrying you because you are busy counting. It calms your nervous system down and gets you ready for a good night sleep.

If you want to learn more, Vicky Vortex is a certified breath coach, as well as a yoga and Pilates teacher. Book a discovery with her on to explore how you can move forward on your journey to optimal health! Visit for more details.

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