Change of life: a rite of passage

 Fiona Hardie expands on how Pilates and breathwork can help welcome in change of life and achieve overall wellness.

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As you age, your body changes. Perhaps one of the trickiest times of change is middle age and menopause. A time of hot flashes, widening girths, brain fog, hair on the chin, insomnia and anxiety. However, this time is a rite of passage, to be celebrated and revered. The accompanying physiological and physical changes can be supported and healed with movement and correct, functional breathing. 

Wellness as you age is imperative and comprises many dimensions, including spiritual, intellectual, occupational and social. There is the physical aspect, encompassing exercising and healthy eating habits. Emotional wellness is being aware of and accepting your changing life, and feeling positive about yourself goes a long way to maintaining a healthy body and mind. Your overall wellness can be embraced with two practices: Pilates and breathwork; they complement each other splendidly.  


Pilates is focused on building core strength and maintaining flexibility. Both are important as you age and wane if not paid attention to. Because of its focus on correct movement, Pilates is a wonderful modality to bring you closer to awareness of your body. When your mind is synced with your body, you gain greater understanding, forgiveness and love for these vehicles with which you are travelling through this lifetime.

By bringing awareness to your posture, your mindset and emotional health are also benefitted. A positive outlook also makes for good posture and vice versa. A strong core, a body which functions efficiently and moves with ease invites a feeling of being unstoppable and ageless. Of course, there is also the pain management aspect. Pilates is very supportive of and safe for those undergoing chemotherapy, radiation or recovering post-surgery.  


Breath is an integral component of Pilates because the diaphragm which is your main breathing muscle is engaged in the Pilates breath to assist in strengthening your abdominal and stabilising muscles. Eloquently explained by Dr Ela Manga, “Breathwork is breathing with attention and intention transforming an unconscious function into a powerful tool for self-awareness, healing and transformation.” Your breath is the one bodily function which is involuntary but which you can change voluntarily. With age, illness and life’s general stressors, your mind races and anxiety sets in. You can calm the mind and completely alter your emotional state just with the breath.  

Simple exercises to try

  • Become aware of how you’re breathing in your daily activities. Do you hold your breath? Do you find you breathe through your mouth? Where does your tongue lie in your mouth? It should rest gently on the roof of your mouth. If it’s behind the bottom row of teeth, you’re more than likely a mouth breather. This can invite a host of troubles for your body and health, such as increasing acid levels in the blood as well as heightening anxiety. If you find you’re holding your breath or mouth breathing, practice   keeping your lips together and breathing through only your nose.  
  • Are you breathing shallow and fast? If yes, your anxiety levels may be increased and your body poorly oxygenated, leading to less energy. And if you’re menopausal with hot flashes, these can be exacerbated. Studies have shown that slow-paced breathing (5 or 6 breaths a minute) can significantly reduce hot flashes.1 
  • For five minutes every hour or so, gently breathe through your nose for 4 or 5 counts and then exhale through the nose for the same number of counts. Gently. No stress or tension in the neck or shoulders. Direct the breath all the way to the bottom of the lungs, feeling the ribs expand. Bring your awareness to your breath and you’ll find an enormous shift in how you’re feeling. While doing this, become aware of your posture. Are you slouching? Are your shoulders hunched around your ears? Are you clenching your jaw? If so, gently lift your chest, expand it with a deep inhale (through the nose), draw your shoulders down and relax your jaw. Feel the difference? Now make this a daily practice until breathing slow and deep and standing proud becomes a habit. 
  • Feeling anxious or about to begin treatment? Inhale slowly through the nose for a count of 4 or 5 and exhale slowly for double that (8 or 10). This practice greatly reduces anxiety and calms the sympathetic nervous system.  


  1. The Breathing Cure by Patrick McKeown
Fiona Hardie is embracing her midlife years as she continues teaching Pilates online while studying to be a Breathwork practitioner. Both keep her sane and energised and young at heart.

MEET THE EXPERT – Fiona Hardie

Fiona Hardie is embracing her midlife years as she continues teaching Pilates online while studying to be a Breathwork practitioner.  Both keep her sane and energised and young at heart.

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