Understanding the Pilates Breath
Published on: 20/09/18
Understanding the Pilates Breath
One of the 6 Principles of Pilates is Breath. Breathing the Pilates way is to be able to breathe wide, deep and full into your back front and sides of the lungs.
Joseph Pilates focused on the body's systems of breath and circulation and emphasized the importance of this regularly in his writing. Saying that, above all else, one should learn to breathe properly. Full breathing feeds and stimulates the circulatory system, which is a body cleansing process that detoxifies the blood and refreshes the cells. Here is the root of the vitality we need to enjoy life and exercise. When breathing and circulation are working well, the body also has a natural rhythm wherein the organs are toned and refreshed, and there is energy for daily life.
"A body freed from nervous tension and over-fatigue is the ideal shelter provided by nature for housing a well-balanced mind that is always fully capable of successfully meeting all the complex problems of modern living." J.H. Pilates
The importance of thinking of the lungs as a bellows encourages you to use them strongly to pump the air fully in and out of the body. Most Pilates exercises coordinate with the breath, and using the breath properly is an integral part of the Pilates repertoire. In each Pilates exercise movement is propelled by breath. The breath leads the way.
The first exercise in the Mat Pilates 1-34 repertoire is the infamous Hundred. The Hundred is the foundation of the repertoire, stimulating circulation, coordinating the breath, strengthening the abdominal muscles helping to stabilise the trunk and warms the body. Give it a go...
Pilates encourages complete, thorough and purposeful inhalation and exhalation. The inhalation is through the nose and exhalation through the mouth. Conscious breathing and specific breathing patterns assist movement by focusing the attention and direction of the body and by delivering oxygen to the muscles being used. Full breathing also assists in removing non-beneficial chemicals that may be stored in the muscles.
Visualize the capacity of the rib cage expanding three-dimensionally with each breath; the ribs expanding forwards, sideways and backward during each inhalation. We often call this technique Lateral Breathing.
By breathing in this lateral way it also helps to maintain spinal alignment, minimising the rise and fall of the belly and therefore providing a more supportive structure. When breathing laterally the abdominal muscles are able to maintain their engagement giving the spinal column strength and support helping to alleviate any lower back discomfort. The lateral breath also discourages the exaggerated movement around the ribcage, in turn the thoracic spine (mid-back) will remain in good alignment.
The Pilates Preparation is taught in every class at PATS PILATES, aligning the body into a neutral posture, finding the optimum position to breathe well and preparing the body for movement.
The breathing pattern can help establish the dynamic, or rhythm, of the Pilates exercises. Some exercises or phases of the exercise are performed more slowly and smoothly and others are performed more rapidly and forcefully. The varying dynamics assist in giving a Pilates session variety as well as simulating daily activities.
Percussive should not be mistaken for forceful; it offers a sound and rhythm to the breath that fluctuates with each exercise. Think of inflating a balloon and then releasing as much air as possible through a small opening in a constant, steady stream.
Joseph Pilates has been remembered saying “You must out the air before you can in the air” and “Inspiration is inspiration for the movement”.
Body, Mind & Spirit
The breath creates a physiological response in the body that naturally decreases our stress and anxiety levels.
Breathing exercises and controlled breathing patterns can provide certain health benefits and enhance physical performance. The benefits include:
- Enhance relaxation
- Decrease stress
- Lower blood pressure
- Improve focus
- Activate specific muscles
- Better circulation & respiration
- Lower risk for cardiovascular disease