Home  >  Magazine  >  Issue 27 : Mar/Apr 2009  > Columns  >  Breath


By Kazuko Ikeda



Just before sitting down to pen this month’s column, I came down with a bad cold—from stomach pains and nausea to the eventual fever— and spent the entire day in and out of sleep. Apparently, a fellow World Cup Alpine skier caught the same thing during the season.

For the past few years, instead of the normal “New Year’s Resolution,” I’ve taken to choosing “key words” for the year. For 2009, “breathing” and “harmony” are the words on which I would focus in my daily life. I would make it a point to study their importance and effect, bringing new depth to the words.

“Breathing” is one of the six basic principles of Pilates and, if you take the time to watch the movements of its creator Joseph Pilates on YouTube, you’ll notice his breathing is exceptional. The diaphragm and rib muscles are anatomically strengthened through breathing technique which has a great effect on the surrounding musculature. With practice we begin to understand how much can be gained through quality breathing.

Children take deep breaths after running about; we are told to take deep breaths before an exam, interview or tournament, and figureskater Mao Asada uses breathing techniques to prepare her for success on the ice. Breathing is an important starting point for Pilates as well as yoga, Yamuna Body Rolling, T’ai Chi Chuan, Qigong and gyrotechnic weight training.

Strained or short breathing tightens the muscles and restricts movement. Even in massage therapy we are encouraged to exhale deeply to release muscle tension. In addition to the considerable effect on autonomic nerves, breathing helps create a balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nerves.

When a cold makes it difficult to breathe, a deep exhale can help ease the symptoms, encouraging you to take in more fresh air to help speed recovery.

Breathing is your first act outside the womb and your last before death. This confirms the importance of good breathing techniques as a source of life itself. Find a place where fresh air abounds and to feel the beauty of big, deep breaths. Take in the goodness and begin to feel refreshed. Yamuna Body Rolling: www.yamunabodyrolling.jp