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(Kathy Corey holding an original Pinwheel made by Joseph Pilates. Photo courtesy of Pilates Anytime)

The Art of Breathing – by Kathy Corey

In Return to Life (1945), Joseph Pilates wrote, “Breathing is the first act of life, and the last.  Our very life depends on it.”  Breath fuels our cells and nourishes our bodies.  This all-important delivery of oxygen affects our activity on every level from the simplest daily task to intense physical activity or emotional stress.  Breath is vital to the mind body connection.
“Since we cannot live without breathing it is tragically deplorable to contemplate the millions and millions who have never learned to master the art of correct breathing,” Mr. Pilates continues, “Therefore, above all, learn how to breathe correctly.”
Yet, most of the instructions for breathing in the matwork program are very basic, stating only INHALE SLOWLY AND EXHALE SLOWLY for almost all the exercises.  Joseph Pilates wrote we need to “… ‘squeeze’ every atom of impure air from your lungs in much the same manner that you would wring every drop of water from a wet cloth.”  In order to do this, he suggests, “… when you lie down or when you rise, ‘roll’ and ‘unroll’, your spine exactly in imitation of a wheel, rolling forward and backward.  It is this very action of ‘rolling’ and ‘unrolling’ that cleanses your lungs so effectively by driving out the impure air and forcing in the pure air as you ‘roll’ and ‘unroll’.”  This process increases oxygenation and provides the proper energy supply to all our cells.  It removes toxins and brings oxygen to all of our organs including our most important organ – the brain – which receives one third of the blood flow in the body.
Each of the Master Teachers interpreted these words in a different way and uniquely applied them to their work.  They all said Joe had a saying, “you must OUT the air before you IN the air.”  But beyond that they did not have specific rules.  Each of the Master Teachers developed breathing techniques that suited the way they taught the method.

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