Taking little Tucker (my mini-poodle) out for a walk, I was about to pass out.

“Oh no!” I thought. “Not out here in public!” I was trying to recover from a stressful situation. Inhaling deeply through my nose and exhaling slowly, I regained composure, and little Tucker wasn’t left to roam the streets.

The power of breathing is incredible! I’ve been aware of a deep breath to calm the mind and body and used to take deep breathes only when needed. However, through studying Pilates and practicing deep breathing, I’ve discovered its benefits are far more worthy to take note of and practice and not just an occasional deep breath.

So what’s the big deal? If you have had your breathing cut off or limited you know its value. Life begins and ends with the breath. However, for most people it’s nothing more than an automatic function of the body. Many illnesses prevail and perhaps for some, just to start with cleansing the body through breathing, health can begin to improve. In the Pilates Guide  by Rael Isacowitz, he says “Everything, from the minutest movement to life itself, begins with breath. Breathing is the inner shower than cleanses the body, guides the mind, and rejuvenates the spirit…”

Undergoing recent surgery with anesthetics, the first thing the nurse asked me to do was to “take a deep breath.” Yuck! With medicine breath abundant I continued to inhale and exhale deep breaths that day and subsequent days to get that “inner shower.” With a quicker than expected recovery, I believe my deep inhalations and exhalations helped me along.

In Return to Life Through Contrology Joseph Pilates (speaking of correct breathing) says, “One often wonders how so many millions continue to live as long as they do under this tremendous handicap to longevity. Lazy breathing converts the lungs, figuratively speaking, into a cemetery for the disposition of diseased, dying and dead germs as well as supplying an ideal haven for the multiplication of other harmful germs. Therefore, above all, learn how to breathe correctly.” What a word picture that is!

So here they are. Some of the benefits of breathing (from Isacowitz’ guide) include:

• Oxygenates the blood and nourishes the body on a cellular level

• Expels toxins from the body

• Improves circulation

• Improves skin tone

• Calms the mind and the body

• Encourages concentration

• Provides a rhythm for movement

• Assists in activating target muscles

Breathing involves the use of the diaphragm, the abdominals and intercostals (sets of muscles that criss-cross and are located in between the ribs). Learning correct breathing using these muscles will allow you to experience the many healthful benefits listed above. May I suggest, dear readers, that one place to learn great breathing techniques are in a good Mat Pilates Class. There are many local Pilates Studios that offer a variety of classes to meet your schedule and fitness level. And in the words from Faith Hill’s song, “Just breathe…” and may I add, deeply!   

Pam Vos owns Forever Fit! Voted #1 Pilates Studio in Ventura County 2007. 3810 W. Channel Islands Blvd., Oxnard. www.ForeverFitStudio.com 805-382-4444. Pam has developed a 12 week program entitled “Forever Fit Living” which she teaches for small groups, individuals and corporations. Send fitness topic suggestions findingojai@aol.com.