Breathing is one of the fundamental principles of Pilates. As Joseph Pilates stated, “Before any real benefit can be derived from physical exercises, one must first learn how to breathe properly.” Breathing can have a profound impact on both our mental and physical well-being. We breathe all day every day and rarely do we think about how we doit. Before exploring my own breathing and researching techniques, I was not doing a great job of it before I started teaching. I love yoga; but would panic when the instructor would how we should be breathing and eventually my mind would spiral into “am I doing this correct; nope I am not; oh yes now I am; darn I am off again!”. I don’t think that is the goal of yoga…and definitely not the goal of Pilates.
The following are just some of the benefits of improved breathing patterns:
– Body Function: expels toxins & improves circulation & increases skin tone
– Body Posture/Movement: improves posture & improves flexibility & helps to engage your abdominal muscles and stabilise your torso (our secret weapon in pilates!) – Mindfulness: calms the mind, decreases stress & lowers blood pressure
During all my Pilates classes we work on breath and technique. These are exercise that take time to practice & grow; my greatest suggestion is not to be hard on yourself if you don’t get the breathing 100% correct in your first few classes. We can continue to work on these together throughout classes. I biggest “thing” in class I can say is JUST BREATHE. I will always coach you through when to breathe in and out; however as long as air is moving in and out of the lungs while we are exercising then you are doing well!
2 techniques you can try outside of classes to improve your breathing:
1. Lateral Breathing: The foundation of breathing in Pilates. We use this breath to help “switch on our core” before and during movement. Start by placing your hands around the ribcage near your sternum with your fingertips touching, take a deep inhalation and avoid your belly expanding outward (into your shirt). Instead try to pull the ribs and fingers apart through in an outward motion, while keeping your shoulders and neck relaxed. Then exhale and compress the abdominal wall and bring your fingers back together. Try to maintain the tightness of your abdominals as you repeat and inhale again.
2. Grounding Breath (4-7-8 Technique) This breathing pattern aims to reduce anxiety or help people drift to sleep. Before starting the breathing pattern, sit in a comfortable position and place the tip of the tongue on the tissue right behind the top front teeth. Try to block out un-wanted noise and turn the phone to silent then focus on the following breathing pattern:
– Empty the lungs of air
– Breathe in quietly through the nose for 4 seconds
– Hold the breath for a count of 7 seconds
– Exhale forcefully through the mouth, pursing the lips and making a “whoosh” sound, for 8 seconds
– Repeat the cycle up to 4 times