Struggling to sleep?

I’ve lost count of the amount of times people say to me at class – ‘I get the best night’s sleep of the week tonight’! One of my lady’s made the comment again last night so I thought I’d write a quick piece about why this happens after a Pilates class.

Good quality sleep is so important for all aspects of our health and well-being and it’s just awful how many people put up with poor quality sleep and/or spend half the night awake.

There are many things you can do to help yourself sleep better (I’ll write about these next time) but the reason why people sleep better after a Pilates class is purely and simply down to the fact they have spent a whole hour breathing deeply – and correctly. You’re probably thinking – breathing correctly?? Surely everyone breathes correctly – it’s the most natural thing in the world isn’t it?

Unfortunately not – due to many factors such as poor posture, stress, asthma, coughs and colds we often end up losing our ability to breathe correctly. This in turn has knock-on effects to our posture and stress levels and we end up in a vicious circle of just not being able to properly unwind and therefore drop off to sleep easily.

In Pilates we perform specific rib cage breathing during the exercises because this assists with the abdominal activation work we are doing. These rib cage breaths are often a lot deeper than the breaths we take in every day life which accounts for the reason why we feel so much better after class – you are getting the chance to spend a full hour taking in deep breaths and flooding your body with oxygen.

In addition, in between the exercises, I also like to remind people to breathe in a relaxed fashion and more specifically down into the belly. Belly breathing is absolutely fantastic for instilling a sense of relaxation and I think everyone should do at least ten deep belly breaths every day before they go to sleep.

How do I belly breathe?

Lie on your back in a relaxed position; ideally do this when you’re in bed as hopefully you’re going to drop off whilst doing it! Place your hands on your belly. Now, clear your mind and only think about your breath. First of all just be aware of your breath and then try to focus on breathing into your hands; when you breathe in the hands should rise and when you exhale your tummy and hands should lower. Do this fifty times – most of us will be asleep by now but if not just keep going and you’ll soon drift off 🙂