The Breath As A Tool – Katrina Hawley, NCPT, Polestar Educator I was once at a Polestar Pilates Educator meeting in which we were working hard to create content for the Internet to communicate to the world, “Why Pilates?” And “Why Polestar?” The answers I found to these questions were easy. Why Pilates? Because Pilates keeps every person doing what they want to do! Whether that is hiking mountains or pulling weeds, running marathons or playing on the floor with grandchildren. Now Why Polestar? That’s an easy one. Polestar Pilates allows me to be creative within a system of principles. Rather than teaching me a series of exercises that become a rote script for a beginner, intermediate and advanced Pilates class, Polestar provided a structure within which I could be creative. This meant that I could use the same tools to teach an 85 year old grandfather as well as a ten year old boy. I wasn’t taught a recipe of exercises but a systematic approach and theory. The amateur chaos theory mathematician in me was stoked! The Polestar Pilates system is based on six principles (Polestar Principles of Movement) that are designed to guide the critical thinking of a Polestar Pilates Practitioner. In this post I want to describe the first one. The Breath Principle Now, we don’t specifically choreograph when one should inhale and exhale. We study the anatomy and physiology of the breath and we also learn the “biokinematics” and the “arthrokinematics” of breath. All of this information within the principle allows us to decide how to best use breath as a tool for movement facilitation. When we study the breath principle we choose to ask the question how can I use the breath to create the best movement. Will an inhale help facilitate healthy movement, or is an exhale better? Or we might ask, how can I use this breath to challenge the mover in front of me to create greater integration of movement. The Polestar Principles encourage client-centered inquisitiveness – Can our understanding of the breath shed light on any other physiological questions? How might I use breath to improve posture? Create more flexibility or space in a joint? Create axial length or facilitate thoracic mobility? Why do I love Polestar Pilates? Because Polestar gave me a plethora of information and then said, “okay kid, take this and run with it! Have a ball, and most importantly help people move”. Experiential: The breath is a system and tool we can learn to control (and teach our students to control as well). Try “Box Breathing” for stress reduction, grounding and activating the parasympathetic nervous system. • This breath practice can be done anywhere! Wherever you are, sit or stand in a way that you feel grounded (weight distributed evenly between the feet or sits bones) and lengthen the spine as if your head was being pulled up by a thread. • “Box Breathing” consists of the same number of counts during your inhale as your exhale with an added pause at the peak of the inhale and valley of the exhale. Try It!: A. Inhale Four Counts (1,2,3,4) – (Pause Four Counts – 1,2,3,4) B. Exhale Four Counts (1,2,3,4)- (Pause four counts 1,2,3,4) C. Try Repeating this Cycle 4 times. • This rhythmic breathing practice can help activate your parasympathetic nervous system (the one that makes you feel calm). Experiment to find the number of counts that works for you – it should be easy, steady and grounding. Breathe On! Katrina Hawley PMA-CPT, Polestar Educator and Affiliate is the owner of The Pilates Studio Hadley providing expert instruction in private and small group sessions as well as group mat and apparatus classes.The Pilates Studio creates goal-based programs that empower clients to increase strength and flexibility as well as improve posture, coordination, and balance. Join Katrina for the Fall Comprehensive teacher Training in Hadley, MA. The Polestar Principles of Movement: Breath, Axial Elongation & Core Control, Spine-Articulation, Organization of the Head, Neck and Shoulders, Alignment and Weight Bearing of the Extremities and Movement Integration. Start the The Teacher Training Journey and Learn more about Polestar Principles Online Course Here: Principles Online!