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Pilates: Breathing Principle

Pilates: Breathing Principle

First Principle: Breathing

Sometimes when students are used to practicing yoga, the breath pattern can be confusing.  So I want to create the space here to break it down for you.  In Yoga, you tend to move upwards with the inhale and downwards on the exhale.  In Pilates, you are breathing out when you are exerting effort.  Think when you are doing the hard part of the exercise.

Breathing correctly during exercise can help relax your muscles and avoid unnecessary tension.

In all exercises, try to initiate the breath + awareness before exercise.
In the pilates breath, breathe in through the nose and out through pursed lips during exertion.


The emphasis is on the 3-Dimensional breath, especially in the back and sides of the rib cage as these areas tend to be under used.  When you exhale deeply, you can activate the deep support muscles by engaging the transversus abdominis.  The action of the transversis is like the drawing in of a corset.

If you breathe shallowly, only in the upper portion of the rib cage, you can overuse the accessory muscles of respiration and create more tension in the shoulder and neck.

This stabilizes the lumbo-pelvic (lower back & pelvis) region, especially when you are in a neutral position (arched lower back as opposed to flat back).

The gentle contraction of the deep pelvic floor also helps fire the transversus abdominis.  Breathing this way helps you AVOID unnecessary tension in the neck and shoulders and helps relaxation.  The rib cage opens out and up during an inhale, promoting spinal extension and closes in and down during exhale promoting spinal flexion.

The emphasis is on the 3-Dimensional breath, especially in the back and sides of the rib cage as these areas tend to be under used.  When you exhale deeply, you can activate the deep support muscles by engaging the transversus abdominis.  The action of the transversis is like the drawing in of a corset. This stabilizes the lumbo-pelvic region, especially when you are in a neutral position (arched lower back as opposed to flat back).

The gentle contraction of the deep pelvic floor also helps fire the transversus abdominis.  Breathing this way will help you avoid unnecessary tension in the neck and shoulders and helps relaxation.  The rib cage opens out and up during an inhale, promoting spinal extension and closes in and down during exhale promoting spinal flexion.

Here are some points to remember:
1) Try not to hold your breath when exercising
2) Breathe fully but naturally without force
3) Breath initiates each movement and will help you improve your flow and enjoyable ease into your movement
4) Certain breath patterns will help certain movements.  If a movement is feeling forced or uncomfortable, check first that you are breathing and second that you are breathing correctly to help the movement.
5) ** Sometimes you can feel dizzy from doing a different type of breathing simply because of the extra intake of oxygen.  If this happens, just stop for a while and start again when you feel better.
Dizziness
Here’s a link to a couple of breathing exercises you can practice at home:

Breathing Supine (lying on back)

Inhale Breathe in through the nose, expanding rib cage three-dimensionally.
Exhale Focus first on gentle pelvic floor and transversus engagement. As you exhale more deeply, the obliques will be engaged to help press the air out.
Inhale Breathe in through the nose, maintaining engagement, feel three-dimensional expansion of rib cage and abdomen.
Exhale As before.
Hugging knees