Yoga with Anne Taylor on July 20th


Fiona McMahon PT, DPT

Join us on Thursday, July 20th at 7pm for a really special treat: Yoga with Anne Taylor. Anne Taylor’s approach to yoga, which integrates movement, breath awareness, opening, and grounding to recalibrate the neuromuscular system, to help decrease pain and increase function has been a mainstay of Beyond Basics’ multi-disciplinary approach to improving the health and well being of our patients for nearly a decade.

Join us for a chance to explore the practice of yoga, without the pressure of trying to learn in an overcrowded class in a trendy yoga studio. Learn poses and breathing techniques you can take with you anywhere to help improve your quality of life. Sign up here today.

Summer Movement Class

The use of Breath in the Pilates Method

Denise Small PT, DPT

The following series of Pilates blog posts will focus on the principles that define the Pilates method.  Joseph Pilates developed his methodology using eight basic movement principles: whole body movement, breathing, balanced muscle development, concentration, control, centering, precision, and rhythm.  Today’s blog will focus on the principle of Breathing.

pilatesBreathing is a natural phenomenon that is performed thousands of times a day. Our daily intake of oxygen and expulsion of carbon dioxide is needed to cleanse our blood, and maintain the functioning of our body systems.  That being said, there are different ways to manipulate one’s breath to help facilitate certain physiological functions. For example, there have been many BBPT blog posts about diaphragmatic breathing, where one breathes into their abdomen to get a stretch of both the diaphragm and the pelvic floor muscles. Well, Pilates had his own approach to breathing, which was a variation on Diaphragmatic breathing.  Pilates approach to breathing was aimed at getting maximal air intake and release to give the body, what he called, “an internal shower” to rid the body of “toxins”. Pilates focused specifically on lateral expansion of the diaphragm, whereas traditional diaphragmatic breathing focuses on the vertical expansion of the diaphragm. In order to achieve this, Pilates encouraged maintaining the engaged tone of the abdomen, while breathing into the front, sides, and back of the ribcage. See the image below for further explanation.


Pilates- Ribcage/ Chest breathing versus Belly/Diaphragmatic breathing

This is an overly simplified view of the actual mechanics. However, both versions are very important. With the ability to differentiate between ribcage and diaphragmatic breathing you can offer your diaphragm a 3-dimensional stretch and the ability to work on abdominal contraction as well as endurance. If you have any questions you can ask them in the comments section. Or come visit me at Beyond Basics for a Pilates Private session!

A Diaphragmatic Breath of Fresh Air

By Riva Preil

The diaphragm is a cone-shaped muscle at the base of the rib cage and it is the primary respiratory muscle.  An essential component of any relaxation program is proper performance of diaphragmatic breathing.  This is an important technique to learn because it helps relax the autonomic nervous system. Proper performance of diaphragmatic breathing can help to quiet brain activity which results in relaxation of all the organs and muscles within the body. An up-regulated nervous system is associated with muscle guarding, tension, stress, and tightness.  The muscles are shouting loudly at high volumes, and this pattern can result in pain and discomfort.  However, diaphragmatic breathing alleviates the tension by “turning down the volume” of the system thereby creating a calming, soothing affect.
The proper way to perform diaphragmatic breathing is as follows:

  1. Lie on your back or recline in a chair in a relaxed position. Place your hands atop the lower portion of your rib cage.
  2. Relax your jaw by placing your tongue on the roof of your mouth and keep your teeth slightly apart.
  3. Inhale slowly through your nose for a count of five seconds.  Allow your widening of the rib cage and expansion/rising of the abdomen.  Keep your upper chest, neck, and shoulders relaxed.
  4. Exhale slowly through your mouth for a count of five seconds.  Allow your ribs to collapse inward and your abdomen to fall (return to starting position).
  5. Repeat this 10x every night prior to going to sleep or at any time during the day when you experience stress or tension.

Now doesn’t that feel AMAZING? Enjoy your calm and relaxed state of being!

Lying Prone

By Denise Vidal

In these Pilates blogs we have explored our breath and its relationship to our posture, core, and the movement in our joints.  We have explored the difference of breathing into our abdominal cavity as well as into our chest cavity. We have also explored breathing into the sides of the ribs as well as the front and back. However, the front and the sides of the ribs can be much easier to access, given that we can both see and touch those areas. In today’s blog we are going to talk about finding more breath in the back part of the rib cage. One way in which we can explore this is lying prone, or lying on your abdomen.

To start, take a pillow from your bed and lie on it lengthwise on your abdomen; that is, put the pillow under your torso from your shoulders to the top of your pelvis.

Put your hands under your forehead for support.

Feel how your front ribs sink into the pillow, allowing your back ribs to have room to spread and open. As we have done before, focus on the back part of your ribcage expanding with each inhale and softening back down with each exhale. See each section of your back ribs expanding separately, starting with the low ribs, the middle ribs, and then your upper ribs (under the shoulder girdle).

Once you feel like you have made a connection with the breath in your back ribs, try to engage your abdominals. Using to cues that we have used before, as you exhale feel your waist hug the imaginary sphere inside your belly. See if you can do this while keeping the pelvis in neutral. Remember, in neutral pelvis we are attempting to keep the pubic bone level with the hip bones. Depending on our individual structure this may not happen; however, the point is to keep the spine long and the pelvis heavy. When we engage our abdomen, there is no need to squeeze your butt or tuck your pelvis.

Practice this and let me know how it goes.

In the next few blogs we will begin to add movement of the limbs in this position.

One Lung Breathing

By Denise Vidal

In previous blogs, I took you through some fundamental Pilates’ exercises to exemplify how the breath aids in core support. I mentioned how the breath should be felt three dimensionally, moving through the front, back, and sides of your body. I also mentioned that the breath can be focused in either the abdomen or in the ribcage.

All of these posts asked you to explore your breath in a supine position (lying on your back), sitting and standing. However, sometimes accessing different dimensions of your body is difficult in a forward facing position.  The following is an awareness exercise that will allow you to increase your ability to expand the ribcage three dimensionally. In addition, this exercise can be done before your go to sleep to aid in relaxation.

Lie on your right side with a pillow under your ribcage and under your head. You want to have a space between the two pillows to allow for your upper arm and shoulder to rest. Wrap your left hand (top hand) around the bottom of your left side ribcage, with your thumb on your back ribs. Take a deep inhale and feel your ribcage expand into your hand.  As you exhale, feel your ribcage fall back down. Take 2-3 breaths with your hand here, feeling your ribcage opening more with each breath.

Slowly move your hand up your ribcage, wrapping it around your mid- ribs, then under your arm pit, then finally on the top of your shoulder (your first rib is underneath your clavicle and the top of your shoulder blade), taking 2-3 breaths in each position.

When you have finished, stretch your left arm over your head and feel your ribs lengthen away from your pelvis.

Sit up slowly and feel the difference between your left and right side ribcage.

Take a deep breath and feel how you can expand the left side ribcage more than the right.  Lift your left and right arm separately to feel how the range of motion differs. When you’re ready lie on your left side and repeat the whole exercise.

You can do this exercise as often as you would like to increase your awareness.

Give it a try and leave a reply to let me know how it goes.