Pilates principles – Breathing

Human lungs

Image courtesy of dream designs / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Breathing is such an important part of your Pilates practice, so much so that it is one of the 6 Pilates principles. Often people forget completely to breathe – holding their breath as an exercise becomes more challenging. Using the correct method of breathing in Pilates will help you to move through an exercise with minimum effort and maximum grace.

Keep this quote in mind from the book, Pilates’ Return to Life Through Contrology the next time you catch yourself holding your breath during an exercise;

“Lazy breathing converts the lungs, literally and figuratively speaking, into a cemetery for the deposition of diseased, dying and dead germs as well as supplying an ideal haven for the multiplication of other harmful germs.”

The facts about breathing everyday

  • Learning to breathe correctly is a great way to relieve stress and tension
  • Oxygen is crucial for all chemical reactions in the body
  • Oxygen provides energy and therefore helps to burn calories
  • Deep breathing stimulates the internal organs, including the heart which in turn increases circulation pumping fresh blood to every cell
  • A full exhale, emptying the lungs rids the body of carbon dioxide

Breathing in Pilates

Pilates requires deep breathing throughout the exercises, filling the lungs with fresh air and blowing out every last bit of stale air. Pilates exercises are coordinated with a breathing pattern and breathing initiates movement and stability. Deep breathing helps to create the all important mind/body connection needed for a fulfilling Pilates session. It helps to calm the mind, reduce stress and bring your focus to your practice.

Most Pilates exercises require you to have your abdominal muscles drawn in to support your spine and to offer a stable core. In order to keep the abdominal muscles drawn in while we breathe, we need to breathe in a way that takes your breath to the back and rib cage, allowing you to fill the lungs fully without the belly rising. This method of breathing is called Lateral breathing.

Lateral breathing:

  • Lateral breathing means breathing in a way that fully expands your rib cage and back while maintaining the connection between the navel and spine
  • Inhale through the nose expanding the rib cage like an accordion
  • Exhale out the mouth drawing the rib cage in as if tightening it like a corset
  • Be careful that the shoulders don’t raise as you inhale
  • Be aware of any tension that may arise as you draw your rib cage down while exhaling
  • This breathing technique is used to facilitate exercises that call for the abdominals to protect the spine, but diaphragmatic breathing with a natural raise of the belly is still the best way to breathe regularly

Lateral breathing might feel quite challenging and confusing at first, leading to tension as you concentrate fiercely. But as with everything, practice makes perfect, so keep working on it, it will become easier! When in doubt, rather than hold your breath as you work through a challenge,  just breathe!

Di

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Di

About Di

Dianne Piketh trained as a dancer before becoming a Pilates instructor. In 2009, she launched Studio 2 Pilates, a boutique Pilates studio in the Southern Suburbs of Cape Town.

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