There’s a sound that we all find not that pleasant. The sound of coughing, wheezing and sneezing.
If you’re trying to avoid catching a cold before you head off on your holidays, there’s an extra way to protect you from the germs – by doing Pilates.
Lynne Robinson, founder of Body Control Pilates, comments: “Pilates exercises help to make your lymphatic and respiratory systems more efficient and these are crucial to your immune system.
“Pilates breathing is another key factor in good health. One of the first things you learn in a Pilates class is how to breathe better, as most of us breathe far too shallowly. You must create space for the ribs to expand, by standing or sitting tall, then breathe wide and deep into your back and sides, thus maximising lung capacity.”
Here are 5 of the best Pilates moves to help your body fight germs:
- Scarf breathing and the hundred breathing
How to do it: Sit or stand tall and wrap a scarf or stretch band around the lower part of your ribs, crossing it over at the front. Hold the opposite ends of the scarf and gently pull it tight.
Why it’s good: It gives you sensory feedback to help you feel your ribcage expanding and closing with your breath.
- The Inhalation
How to do it: As you breathe in, focus on the back and the sides of the ribcage where your lungs are located. Like balloons swelling gradually with air, your lungs will expand and widen the walls of your ribcage. Do not be tempted to force this inhalation as you will only create tension. You should feel the scarf tightening as your ribs expand.
It is not only the filling up of the lungs that expands your ribcage, but also the descent of the diaphragm, lowering into your abdominal area. Therefore your abdominal area will extend outwards.
Try to breathe in through your nose and keep your shoulders relaxed.
Why it’s good: This helps to get oxygen pumping properly around the body.
- The Exhalation
How to do it: As you breathe out, feel the air gently being pushed out fully as if from the very bottom of your lungs and eventually exit your body via your mouth with a deep sigh. You may also breathe out through your nose if it feels more natural.
Your diaphragm will begin to rise and you should feel your ribcage reactively beginning to close as your lungs empty.
Do not puff your cheeks or purse your lips, as this will tense the neck, jaw and face and waste energy. Breathe in for up to a count of 5 and out fully for up to a count of 5.
Why it’s good: Helps to de-stress the body and calm you.
- The Relaxation Position
How to do it: Lie on a mat on your back with your knees bent, feet hip-width apart and parallel. Have a folded towel under your head to keep your head and neck in line with your spine. Check that your pelvis is level (neutral) and your spine retains its natural curves. Arms are lengthened by your sides or resting on your abdomen. Breathe wide and full into the back and sides of your ribcage, noticing how your ribs expand with the in breath and close with the out breath.
- Breathe wide into the ribcage.
- Breathe out, and gently engage your pelvic floor muscles drawing from back to front and up inside like an internal zip until you feel your lower abdomen hollow slightly (this connects your core muscles)
- Breathe in and release your ‘core zip.’
Repeat but this time; try adding a few breaths as you hold the internal zip before releasing.
Why it’s good: Use this exercise to remind yourself of the Fundamentals of Pilates Alignment, Breathing and Centering and also to help you release unwanted tension
- Chin Tucks and Neck Rolls
How to do it: Start in The Relaxation Position, lengthening your arms by the side of your body on the mat.
- Breathe in, preparing your body to move.
- Breathe out as you lengthen the back of the neck and nod your head forwards, drawing the chin down. Keep your head in contact with the mat.
- Breathe in as you tip your head back gently, passing through the mid-position without stopping, to slightly extend your neck. Once again keep the back of the head in contact with the mat as the chin glides upwards; this is a small and subtle movement.
Repeat the above five times and then find the mid-position where your head is neither tipped back or forwards and your neck is neither flexed nor extended. This is neutral, with your face and your focus both directed towards the ceiling.
- Breathe out as you keep your neck released and roll your head to one side. Again, make sure that you keep your head in contact with the mat.
- Breathe in as you roll your head back to the centre.
Repeat to the other side and repeat the Neck Roll up to five times before returning your head back to the centre with even length on both sides of your neck.
Why it’s good: There are a lot of lymph nodes around the neck and collarbones so we want to gently mobilise the area.