Often when people start Pilates the breathing can be the bit that they struggle with the most. I often hear “I just can’t get the breathing” or “I want to breath in/out at the wrong time”. I must admit that I was the same. I found the breathing back to front and hard to master. Coming from an aerobics background I wasn’t used to using my breathing in a slow controlled way.
I’ve been focusing on the breathing with my classes, using a resistance band gently pulled around the ribcage to act as a guide. Feedback has included:
“It’s made me slow down and focus more”
“I can feel my core working more”
“It has made it harder”
“It makes me more aware of my body and what I am doing”
When performing the Pilates exercises getting in touch with the core muscles is essential to doing the exercises correctly. The core is like a house consist of the pelvic floor (floor), transverse abdominis (front wall), multifidus (back wall), and diaphragm (roof). Deep breathing is an essential part of maximizing this. When you breathe in, the diaphragm contracts downward drawing in air, allowing the lungs to inflate like balloons expanding in your ribcage, without the shoulders lifting or the abdomen being pushed outwards. It’s known as lateral breathing. When you exhale, the diaphragm returns pushing air out. Deep core muscles act as a brace around your spine to support and protect your back. Practise breathing with your core engaged, with every out breath feeling the strength of your core. Generally in Pilates you exhale on the hardest part of the exercise when you need the most core strength. So this would be when you push up in a press up or when you curl up in an exercise for example.
To practise this breathing try placing your hands on your ribcage with your longest fingers touching. As you breath in focus on your fingers moving apart and your ribcage expanding whilst your shoulders stay still. As you breath out your fingers return to touch. Breath into your ribcage. You may feel lightheaded when doing this, its deep breathing so takes some practise if you are not used to it but can be a very helpful practice in helping calm people and is used in meditation, showing the multiple benefits of Pilates.