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meditation, Refined Pilates, Yoga

“THE BREATH OF LIFE”

A SERIES OF BLOGS ON BREATHING

A DIAPHRAGM RELEASE EXERCISE

The breathing diaphragm has the the largest concentration of fascia in the body. When you think that it is in the middle of the body, it is easy to see how any kind of tension or stress in the diaphragm, has a knock on effect on the rest of the body.

Fascia is now being seen as the largest organ in the body. At it’s best it has a movement that is free and a steady, fairly slow, rhythm. It does react and contract with physical or psychological injury and sometimes it stays that way causing physical pain or discomfort. 

Tension patterns in the fascia can sometimes be chronic and have been there for a very long time, since the time of birth, for example. 

Tension patterns in the fascia can cause chronic and sometimes quite strong pain. Tension patterns in the breathing diaphragm affect our breathing, so ultimately how much oxygen we take into each cell in the body.

The diaphragm moves up and down about 11 centermeters creating a natural massage and stimulus for all the organs of the body, causing a positive response in the digestive system. If the diaphragm is restricted we miss out on this “treat” that nature intended. What an amazing, complicated, moving, flowing system our body is!

Here is a very effective exercise, that was taught to me by my beloved mentor, the late Lena Trifonopoulou.

The exercise is helpful for a fuller Refined Pilates or Yoga practice and for any other movement practice that you enjoy and for life.

It is particularly important for those with back pain, scoliosis, tension in the shoulders, kyphosis and digestive problems.

Lie on your back with the legs a little apart and the arms beside you with the palms of the hands facing to the ceiling.

Make sure that you are warm. Cover yourself with a blanket if necessary.

Place a blanket under your knees if you know that your lower back tends to get painful in this position.

Take as long as you need to go into your calm, peaceful place and relax.

This is fascia release exercise. It should be done gently. The “holds” go very deep.

It is important to continually surrender the weight of the upper back to gravity, the legs hang down and the intestines are relaxed.

Bring your finger tips to the tip of the end of the breast bone. You are going to use this bone like a handle. Observe the breath for a moment and you will notice that on the in breath the breast bone naturally travels up towards the crown of the head and on the out breath it naturally descends. For the next three breaths, follow with your fingers (gently, there is no need to be harsh because these techniques go very deep) the upward moment of the in breath and the breast bone, and then block the downward movement of the breast bone.

Move your second, third and fourth fingers out to the side and access the underneath of the last rib. Once again observe the breath and you will notice that on the in breath the thorax naturally travels up towards the crown of the head and on the out breath it naturally descends. As before during the next three breaths, follow with your fingers the upward moment of the thorax with the in breath and then prevent the downward movement of the thorax. Be gentle. You may find with each in breath there is a small increase in the upward movement. Follow this closely.

When you touch yourself do so with love and respect.

Move your second, third and fourth fingers further out to the side of the thorax, accessing the underneath of the last rib. Once again observe the breath, follow the upward movement of the in breath and block the downward movement. Repeat for three breaths.

Move your hands around to the back of you. It is a little harder to feel but access the last rib at the back of the body (you will be partially lying on your hands) with your thumbs and repeat the process for three breaths.

The whole time that you are doing this keep the space between the two sides of the thorax completely relaxed. Give a chance to the fascia of the diaphragm to release.

To finish lace your finger right down to the roots and place your hands on the back of the occiput ( this wonderful bone at the back of the skull). Feel a gentle pull between the elbows and soften the shoulders. Have the elbows open. 

Take a breath in and breath out, skimming along the floor make a side bend to the right. Breath out and come back to your beginning position.

Repeat this to the left.

Repeat the side bending three times. Bring the arms back beside your body in the original starting position, relax and observe how you feel.

Illium Center of Light, Refined Pilates, Yoga

SECOND SPINAL POSITION AND SUCCESSION FOR REFINED PILATES AND YOGA

Joseph Pilates referred to 4 different positions of the spine. 

Second position of the spine is when the spine is “straight”. Second spinal succession is when the spine moves from another position to straight in sequence.

THE NATURAL CURVES OF THE SPINE PROTECT US FROM INJURY

The vertebral column retains it’s natural curves, when we are in second position of the spine, as these curves work like shock absorbers.

Joseph Pilates knew that many people often place a lot of strain on the lower back especially the area of the 5th lumbar and sacrum. He would therefore ask people to subtly lengthen the tail to the coccyx. This results in an equally subtle engagement of the pelvic floor and in sequence the deep abdominal muscles. It is a very subtle adjustment. Doing it too much would result in a slight tucking of the tail bone. Over time that would lead to the lumber curve being reduced, which in turn would cause imbalance and injury.

RELEASING YOUR TAIL

See the video, “Bouncing on a Pole”. https://youtu.be/yaw_1VdT4N8 An exercise  which teaches not just the importance of the suppleness of the feet but, the bouncing motion gently encourages the release of the hip joints and an allowing of the coccyx or tail bone to hang and lengthen. It is sometimes useful to imagine that we actually do have a tail.

When we are in the second position of the spine or when we are moving into it our focus is on the centre of the spine, or the spinal cord.

POWERFULLY IMAGINING AN EXTENDED AXIS

Imagining the axis is a very powerful addition to focusing into the center of the spine. It serves as a guide for the spine. Imagine a line of light that starts directly above the crown of the head ( the part of the head which is soft when we are babies). This line of light is like a plumb line, if we are upright,  which travels down through the body exits through the pelvic floor and goes deep into the earth between our feet.

I have found it very effective for people to imagine their axis as being longer than their physical body. I have noticed that spines get longer, when people visualise the axis in this way. This freeing and creating space in the spine is important for us all, in particular for people with conditions like scoliosis.

POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGICAL EFFECTS.

A longer spine makes people feel taller and more self confident. It has a positive psychological effect.

This axis can be imagined in any position, standing, sitting, on all fours, on a diagonal like the position we take when we do Front Support.

THE TRIANGLE OF THE PELVIS

When we are in the Second Position of the spine the pelvis is in a neutral position. It is neither tilted forward or back. How can we check this? When we lie on our back, we can place our hands over the lower part of the belly. Our fingertips are on our pubic bone and part of our arms end up resting on the front of our iliac crests. We can imagine these 3 points are like a triangle. The three points of the triangle are all on the same level parallel to the floor. The same principles apply in the upright position, the three bones of the triangle of the pelvis are on one plane. 

A HAPPY SPINE IS ONE THAT IS FREE TO MOVE

In finding the second position of the spine it is essential to remember that the spine and the segments of the spine need to be free, free is move effortlessly. We often mistakenly gather tension at the base of the spine and at the top. Check yourself out. Do you feel as if there is a hand wrapped around the bottom of the spine squeezing it? If so let it go. The same goes for the cervical spine which is like a tail at the other end. Remember the top vertebra is just behind the nose. Explore releasing it. In the cranial sacral work, the bones of the head are often viewed as the last vertebrae. I have found this to be a useful view in achieving a continuation of the energy beyond the top of the head without tension.

CONNECTING WITH YOUR ROOTS AND YOUR SENSE OF LIGHTNESS

When moving into the second position, spinal succession, it is possible to start at either the top or bottom according to the type of movement. I have found that moving from the tail up gives a better sense of grounding and moving from the cervical spine down, a lightness. Think about the movement you are doing and choose, consciously, according to what you may wish to achieve and the movement.

USEFUL VIDEOS

There are two videos on You Tube which are about Footwork on the Reformer. https://youtu.be/Vnfw4wkG35k The exercises are done in the Second position of the spine and we I do focus a great deal on creating space in the spine even though the exercises are with the resistance of the springs. https://youtu.be/zvWamobo9FI You may find them interesting.

Enjoy your practice!

Copyright: Jenny Colebourne.

Illium Center of Light, meditation, Online Classes, Yoga, Zoom

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