OFF THE MAT, ON THE MENU: A Breath of Fresh Air

By Frances Sheridan Gourlart, Pilates Style, February 27, 2014

“Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile,” Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Han reminds us.
Headed to the mat, Reformer, Half Barrel or lunch table? Bring your body, mind and your breath…..and your satisfied smile won’t be far behind.

Think of the lungs as a bellows, Joseph Pilates urged us, as a strong pump that brings oxygen into the blood stream, circulating it to every cell in the body. Deep conscious breathing also gets rid of carbon dioxide that stagnates at the bottom of the lungs; every breath of fresh air stimulates the internal organs, oxygenates the hard-working bloodstream and cleanses the entire Pilates body, at rest and play. Just as important, breathing calms the brain (and that’s where your appetite begins). So, centering the mind through breathing brings your attention to your powerhouse and to your power meal, if you’ve prepared one. The breathing we know so well, both lateral breathing (into the side body and the back of the spine) and diaphragmatic breathing (into the belly and letting the belly rise) are important aspects of our Pilates & Yoga practice, at different times and at different tempos for different purposes— rejuvenating the physical landscape—from the hippocampus to the hips to our very indispensable metatarsals.

Time to course-correct if you’ve been giving your breath the backseat. Mindful breathing is foundational on the Pilates mat and at the placemat. Before you pick up that fork or that Magic Circle, take a tip from the ancients and breathe in, breathe out, then let that smile shine through.

What awaits you at the end of that long breath, at the end of that breath-happy session? What will make your Pilates body smile if you’ve tired of soup, electrolyte drinks and flavored waters? How about homemade herbal lemonade to decant into your water bottle to boost end-of-winter immunity?

The fresh “basil-ade” below is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, high in Vitamins K, A and C, plus magnesium for the heart and bones and immunity.

(Serves 6)

lemonade-200x3004 cups fresh basil leaves (packed), plus more for garnish
¾ cup organic sugar
1 cup (preferably fresh-squeezed) lemon juice
4 cups spring water

  1. Make the basil syrup: Bring the leaves, sugar and 2 cups of water to a boil in a deep saucepan. Stir to dissolve, bruising the leaves with a wooden spoon. Simmer for 5 minutes, then strain, pressing any extra liquid out of the leaves. Cool.
  2. Pour the basil syrup into a large pitcher. Stir in the lemon juice and 4 cups of spring water. Chill. Pour over regular ice cubes or ice cubes made from green or mint tea.

Variations: Substitute 2 cups of fresh mint leaves for 2 cups of basil. Or use ¼ cup freshly chopped rosemary for ¼ cup basil.

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