For many people, the Pilates principle of breathing can be frustrating and overwhelming. Mastering the Pilates breath pattern is an important way to stay focused on your workout, in tune with your body and to improve your overall results! Let’s first discuss proper execution of the Pilates breath:
Three dimensional breathing: During a Pilates workout it is important to breathe into the sides and the back of the ribcage. Breathing three dimensionally is difficult, especially if you typically breathe into your stomach. To help practice this principle, place your hands on the sides of your ribcage. As you inhale feel your hands moving further apart and as you exhale your hands will move closer together again. Placing your hands on the sides of your ribcage will give you a deeper connection and understanding of how your body is moving.
When to exhale: As a general rule, exhalation promotes spinal flexion (i.e. an ab crunch) and inhalation promotes extension. Think about exhaling during the hardest part of movement: as you crunch, twist, extend your legs away from the body, or any place where you feel you need more abdominal support.
Pelvic floor engagement: As you exhale gently lift up on the pelvic floor (feel like you’re performing a gentle kegel or stopping the flow of urine). The pelvic floor is a part of your core muscles and will help promote stabilization, especially in the lumbar spine.
Why Pilates instructors make a big deal about breathing!
It helps support your back: Your deep abdominal muscle, the tranversus abdominus, wraps around your entire torso and acts as a girdle to hold in your abdominal content and support your back. Exhalation promotes contraction in the transversus abdominus, which in turn will help pull in the abdominals and promote back safety during the workout.
It helps maintain abdominal connection and shoulder stability: Breathing into your stomach will relax your abdominals and leave the back unsupported. Breathing into your chest and shoulders promotes neck and shoulder tension and instability. The three dimensional breath encourages abdominal connection throughout the workout (providing spinal support), which is particularly important in endurance exercises like the hundreds. The Pilates breath also improves shoulder stability and muscular relaxation in the neck. It may be difficult to make changes to your breath pattern, but it will pay off in the long run.
Think about these tips during your next pilates practice to feel a deeper connection with your body and better results!