• Leona Mirtschin

What Everybody Ought to Know About Breathing & Coronavirus: Part 2 - Best Exercises for Lung Health

In my previous article (Part 1), I promised to show you the best exercises to improve your lung health. The good news is it is never too late to start and they have huge benefits for people with respiratory disorders such as asthma, chronic bronchitis and emphysema.


Now, more than ever you need to start thinking about the health of your lungs. The after-effects of coronavirus can be huge on the body states Panagis Galiatsatos, a pulmonologist and assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, in an article published on www.france24.com: “Some patients will recover within three months but for others, it can be a lifetime.” He went on to say that the severity and the duration of complications will depend on three factors: Firstly, “How good your lungs are, to begin with; if you’ve got good lungs and have breathed good air your entire life, you’re in a better position to recover quickly”. Secondly, “how bad the ARDS (Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome) was”. Thirdly, given that breathing machines themselves can cause lung damage, “whether you needed a medical ventilator”.


Below is a summary from (Part 1) of a number of things that can help improve the health of your respiratory system to get your lungs working more efficiently by improving the gas exchange of life-giving oxygen into your body while removing toxic carbon dioxide out of your body. They are:


  1. Prone lying

  2. Performing the Fletcher Pilates Percussive Breath TM Technique

  3. Slow breathing at a rate of 6-10 breaths per minute


The exercise sequence that I have formulated can be done to boost your lung health & fitness for prevention, but are also appropriate for recovery following respiratory illness or disease, although you might start with the first exercise only and work your way up to adding more.


In the last 3 weeks, I have tested the Lung Health Exercise Sequence on my clients that have been coming in into my studio. Used as a warm-up, the benefits have been huge especially, for a couple of my clients who both had recent respiratory infections including one hospitalisation. The sequence gets your lungs better breathing, which goes towards improved lung health with regular practice. The other bonus of this sequence, it gets your core working optimally, so that every exercise that follows is performed with better efficiency, better precision and more strength.


Exercise caution: If you have spondylolisthesis, stenosis or you are experiencing low back pain, place a pillow under your pelvis to support your back and avoid extending into your lumbar spine.


Lung Health Exercise Sequence: Level 1

Perform this sequence once daily


1. Prone Breathing using the Fletcher Pilates Percussive Breath TM Technique

  • To perform the Fletcher Pilates Percussive Breath TM Technique inhale through your nose and exhale through thin lips like you are blowing up a balloon or cooling a hot cup of coffee or tea.

  • Slow breathing is key. Aim to breathe in for 4-5 counts and breathe out for 4-5 counts.

  • Focus on the exhale breath, engaging your lower ribcage to squeeze the air out of your lower lungs, then notice how the inhale automatically flows into the back and the sides of your ribcage.

  • You can't breathe incorrectly when lying on your tummy, that's the beauty of it!


Centre: Rest your forehead on your hands. Perform 10 slow breaths in and out

Right: Turn your head to your right. Focus directing your breath into your right lung. Perform 10 slow breaths in and out. Imagine a balloon inflating and deflating inside your right ribcage.

Left: Turn your head to your left. Focus directing your breath into your left lung. Perform 10 slow breaths in and out. Imagine a balloon inflating and deflating inside your left ribcage.

Centre: Return your forehead back to centre. Direct your breath into both lungs. Perform 10 slow breaths in and out. Imagine your ribcage opening like an umbrella on the inhale and closing like an umbrella on the exhale.


Did you notice more expansion into the back and sides of your ribcage during the last set of 10 breaths?


2. Back Extension

  • Place a rolled-up towel under your forehead.

  • Use slow, deep percussive breaths as described above.

  • Keep your pubic bone pressed into the mat and your tailbone lengthening towards your heels to avoid low back pain.

  • Keep your legs together


Inhale. Draw your shoulder blades together and down in a V. Lift the top of your breastbone to extend your upper spine and reach your hands towards your feet. Keep your lower ribcage on the mat. Keep your palms pressing into the side of your legs. Lengthen the crown of your head to the wall in front of you, eyes looking down, to avoid neck tension.

Exhale. Lower your forehead, chest and arms.


Do 10 repetitions


3. Pone Knee Bends

  • Use slow, deep percussive breaths as described above.

  • Keep your pubic bone pressed into the mat and your tailbone lengthening towards your heels to avoid low back pain.

  • Keep your legs together and lengthening with your knees slightly lifted off the mat.


Inhale. Bend your right knee

Exhale. Extend and lengthen your right leg

Inhale. Bend your left knee

Exhale. Extend and lengthen your left leg


Do 10-20 repetitions alternating


4. Prone Breathing Centre

Finish with the prone breathing exercise that your first did, with your forehead centred and take note if you feel improved breathing.

  • Use slow, deep percussive breaths as described in exercise 1. above.


Centre: Rest your forehead on your hands. Direct your breath into both lungs. Perform 10 slow breaths in and out. Imagine your ribcage opening like an umbrella on the inhale and closing like an umbrella on the exhale.


  • Are your lungs inflating more?

  • Is your ribcage expanding more?

  • Are taking longer and deeper breaths?

  • Do you feel more energised?

  • Do you feel mentally refreshed?


Next up: Stay tuned for Lung Health Exercise Sequence Level 2


About the author: Leona Mirtschin is an Accredited Exercise Physiologist and a 3rd generation Pilates practitioner certified in the Pilates Method (BASI) & Licenced Fletcher Pilates Provider

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