One of the 6 principles of Pilates is breathing. There is not much to say about that, right? We just do it. We don’t even think about it.
Hold on, do we really just do it? You’d not believe the amount of times I’ve had to remind clients to breathe as they carry out a Pilates exercise. The Truth is that we are so busy concentrating on lifting a leg here, extending an arm there, relaxing a shoulder-blade over here that we do often forget to breathe during our Pilates practice and beyond.
Although, simply forgetting to breath is not even what Joseph Pilates meant when he looked at breathing. He wanted us to learn to breathe properly, fully inflating and fully deflating the lungs as we work. Joseph Pilates believed in the importance of getting the blood pumping to awaken all cells in the body and help the blood to carry away waste. He was not that far off, think of your Pilates breath as charging your blood with oxygen.
When to breath in Pilates and does it matter?
There are lots of different schools of Pilates who put different emphasis on when and where to breathe. Seeing this made me realise that it’s not so important where you breathe in an exercise (I’ve been told that Joseph only actually gave specific instructions on how to breathe in 2 exercises) the important thing is that you do.
Having said that, through my teaching experience, I realise that a lot of people want to be directed on where to breath during an exercise. It helps to have some guidance. If that works best for you, as a rule of thumb think of breathing in to prepare, then breath out on the exercise effort.
How should Pilates breathing feel?
Imagine your lungs are like the accordion (don’t think about the noise these weird instruments make) focus on the idea of your lungs carrying out the luxurious, smooth opening and closing motion as you breath. Fill up your lungs as if you were teasing the accordion open, then release the breathe, as though your were softly, but absolutely, squeezing the accordion shut. Go on. Try that now.
Shallow breathing, the curse of modern life?
How often do you catch yourself taking small shallow breaths hunched up in the shoulders and tense in the neck? Learning to take a breath, a real breath can grant us the break that we so often deprive ourselves of in our hectic working day. Just stop, fill up and empty out. Breathe right and feel the air filling up the back and sides of your ribcage, opening the ribs to the sides of the room, then softly closing on the exhalation. Feel the tension flow away with that out-breath.
Pilates breathing for life
If you are reading this at your desk, push your chair back from the desk. Plant both feet on the ground. Lengthen your neck and spine by pushing the bones of your bottom into the chair for the length of a long in-breath. Stay there, lovely tall and straight spine to breath out. Do it 5 times in total. How did that feel? Tough meeting ahead? Why not try this breathing exercise before you go into the meeting. Squashed on a train mid commute? Take your Pilates breathing with you.
The wonderful thing about our Pilates breathing is that you can take it from the mat and apply it to the stressful situations in your working day.
So go ahead, and breathe.
Try Pilates breathing for yourself, find a Pilates class near you.