In Pilates there is a breath in or out that accompanies each movement. There is also a specific technique for breathing that should be used when performing the exercises.
The main muscles that we focus on in Pilates that are involved in breathing are the diaphragm and oblique muscles.
The diaphragm is an important structure, as it separates the thoracic and abdominal cavities.
The diaphragm contracts to facilitate inhalation – air is breathed in, and the abdomen rises slightly. If a person uses mostly their diaphragm for breathing and not their intercostal muscles and other muscles, then the abdomen will protrude greatly each time they inhale, rather than the ribcage expanding.
In Pilates, we have a specific breathing technique pattern designed to aid the movements and muscle activations for each exercise.
When performing Pilates breathing:
- INHALE through the nose, directing the breath into the sides of the ribs (expanding the ribs laterally) You can try this yourself stand up and place your hands on your rib cage, breath in and feel your rib cage expand out into your hands.
- EXHALE through the mouth, closing the rib cage down and in
- Perform a normal inhalation (not an exaggerated, deep breath in) and a slow, forceful exhalation
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PILATES BREATHING AND YOGA BREATHING
If you do yoga, you may have noticed there are some distinct differences between yoga and Pilates breathing. This can be challenging to get your head around initially, and neither breathing pattern is wrong or right, as both methods are using the breath for a specific purpose.
In Pilates we:
- Focus on the exhalation for the effort of most exercises, as this aids in the activation of the abdominal muscles. In Pilates, it is always extremely important to have these muscles activated. The breathing pattern makes this possible.
- Use a normal breath in (not a deep breath in) and directs the breath into the sides of the ribs (rather than the lower belly) in order to maintain core activation, try belly breathing whilst holding your core muscles, it’s rather challenging!
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