I was trained as a ballet dancer at the Vaganova Russian Ballet Academy in Saint Petersburg. Eight years of study at this prestigious dance institution gave me more than just knowledge and experience to dance, but an ability to look after my health and how to survive in this most physically demanding professions. One of the subjects that was directed to help dancers in this matter was breathing gymnastics. I found knowledge and practical application of these breathing skills is very useful during my professional work and later, when I starting my research into exercise and breathing.
After I stopped dancing, I did not want to stop exercising. Just practicing ballet at home on my own was not the easiest. After all, ballet exercise directed not for simply being healthy, but being fit for the performance on the stage. After trying aerobics and yoga, while teaching ballet at Richmond College in London, I came across Pilates mat exercises. I instantly found it appealing. Just as ballet it is elegant and directed on alignment and strength, but a lot easer on the joints.
After some time practicing Pilates, it felt natural to interpret my knowledge and experience of ballet into my routine. Despite being fit and eating healthy food, I was still suffering from frequently occurring colds. In search of answer, I tried deep breathing. What is the better place for this, as to try deep breathing near the sea? And so I did, I came to the beach one fine day and filled my lungs to the full capacity with the fresh air. To my horror, just after a few breaths, I almost fainted. After that unfortunate experience I felt more puzzled.
During a trip to Saint Petersburg, I came across a book about Dr Buteyko’s method of breathing, which promotes the benefits of shallow breathing. One of these benefits is to avoid hyperventilation or over breathing, which can lead to numerous health problems, such as asthma and a blocked nose. Inhaling too much air into your lungs by deep breathing will not necessary allow oxygen to absorb in to your tissue and organs. I armed my self with a serious volume of books about breathing and many of them contradicted to each other or promoted just a particular way of breathing. Therefore I had to work out for myself, which one is right. Then I remembered our breathing gymnastics lessons in the baller school and after a careful selection, I came to the conclusion that if the nature gave us so many ways of breathing, they should all be used.
- In the normal, relaxed conditions we inhale light amount of air in the lungs and exhale through the nose.
- When we talk continuously, we inhale and exhale through the mouth.
- We need to take deep long breath when we stretch in yawning.
- Our breath needs to be deep and frequent during strong physical activities.
- During cry or laugh we inhale or exhale rapidly in pulsating manner. This type of breathing exercising our diaphragm, this is why we feel good, after a lot of laugh, even not bothered about abdominal aches afterwards.
- We can hold our breath for a short time, as in being under water or in case of a shock or surprise.
- We breathe through the nose shallow and light during a healthy sleep.
- Singers cannot stop the orchestra to take a deep breath, but a short sharp inhale is sufficient to produce a sound on one long exhale.
As you can see, we have a choice of options. For that reason, I decided to include as many ways of breathing as possible in the Breathtaking Pilates. If nature gave us, we must use it. Especial attention I gave to short sharp inhales, in order to train the diaphragm, the master muscle of breathing.