Deep Breathing Exercises

Deep Breathing Exercises: The way you breathe when stretching will greatly enhance the benefits but it will also help reduce stress levels significantly if you breathe a certain way. The way you breathe could be exacerbating your stress!! Breathing is so much more that what we think it is. Understanding what it is, what it does, or what it does not do, will be a great benefit not only to your Pilates, but also your stress levels generally. If you don’t know how wonderful deep breathing exercises are, this will amaze you.


Do you know the feeling you get when you get a fright or find yourself in a stressful situation? Your heart pumps harder, your mouth feels dry, you may start to sweat or feel you should empty your bowels. The reason it creates stress in your body is due to such hormones cortisol and adrenaline and this situation is often referred to as “fight or flight”. But, first of all, a quick few words on anatomy.
The nervous system includes both the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous systems, and these 2 working harmoniously together create balance in your body. Each requires a certain breathing pattern, for example, you use one for exercises & Pilates, and another from stretching exercises & relaxing.
The job of the sympathetic system is to be responsible for the fight or flight response (that is, either to stay and fight, or to get out of there quickly). It’s a bit of our anatomy that hasn’t changed for thousands of years when this response helped us when we found ourselves in a dangerous situation.

The sympathetic system controls:

  • Heart rate,

  • Perspiration,

  • Digestion,

  • Respiration,

  • Urination and

  • Sexual arousal

  • Induces hormone Cortisol

That’s okay, as long as it’s not excessive. If hormone levels are too high for too long, you’ll suffer problems such as:

  • Weakened immune system,

  • Depression,

  • Obesity and

  • Insomnia.

  • What you need then to focus on is the opposite, the Parasympathetic system. The Parasympathetic system is responsible for lowering activity, rest and calm. This is where our deep breathing exercises are beneficial. Its responsibilities are:

  • Slows heart rate down,

  • Lowers blood pressure,

  • Activates digestion and

  • Induces the hormone serotonin (the happy hormone).


  • Now, back to deep breathing exercises. Generally speaking, with too much stress (including challenging exercise periods), we breathe into our rib cage which releases cortisol and adrenaline. When we relax, we should be breathing deeply into the abdomen. Deep abdominal breathing exercises releases serotonin, the happy hormone and calms you down.

    We require Serotonin when we’re doing stretching exercises and relaxing. So when we do stretch, we breathe deeply into our abdomen (not the chest).

    The Method (this is often called Diaphragmatic Breathing:

    • Take a deep breath in to the abdomen, in through the nose and out through the mouth.
    • The count is to 7. Breathe deeply into the abdomen to the slow count of 4. Then count 5 and 6 into the rib cage and 7 into the chest.
    • Don’t just reserve this method for your stretches – use it as often during the day as you can, and it’s great to help you sleep at night.

    Good luck with your relaxation technique with more of your happy hormones....
    Link to website for scientific explanation of process: Diaphragmatic Breathing - a Medical Viewpoint

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