One of the primary keys of success with Pilates is learning how to breathe fully, taking advantage of every breath in order to breathe in as much fresh air as possible to oxygenate the blood and exhale every bit of stale air.
Breathing in deeply for a fresh supply of oxygen is essential as it perks up the circulation and rejuvenates the body, regardless of the Pilates exercise position you are taking. Breathing is one of the six primary principles of Pilates as you would coordinate most of your movements with the inhalation and exhalation process.
Even with breathing as a focus, if you are new to Pilates, you may feel a bit deprived at first during the inhalation process. You must keep your abdominal muscles pulled in and engaged all the while garnering a deep breathe at the same time. This seems counterproductive but there is a way to do it in Pilates. This special technique is called lateral breathing and it allows you to get all the fresh air you need while still engaging the abdominal muscles in various exercises.
Deep in the Trunk
With lateral breathing, you must breathe deeply, down through the spinal column and into the bottom pelvic region. However the key is allowing this breath to expand within the ribcage, through the sides and back of it.
When you engage your abdominal muscles the right way, they will protect your spine and act as a type of girdle for the entire trunk of your body from the ribcage to the pubic bone. Practice lateral breathing without conducting any exercises and then do it to an exercise. You will notice how much easier the exercises are with the lateral breathing.
When you lateral breathe, the abdominal muscles will act like a scoop and elongate your spinal area. If you need to be convinced at how effective lateral breathing is in Pilates try this exercise so you can feel your ribcage expanding:
1. Get a long exercise band and wrap it around the lower rib cage or you can even place your hands around the area. With the band, close it in front of the chest area and hold it.
2. Breathe deeply upon inhalation and imagine the breathe scooting down your spine, into the back and sides. You will feel the exercise band stretching along the sides and back with each breathe you take.
Sequential breathing is another way to breathe during Pilates exercises that will make your exercises easier to do. You must relax your shoulders and drop them down while maintaining a straight spine, sometimes called a neutral spine, which basically means you are doing nothing to alter the shape of its natural curvature from the cervical area to the lumbar area. In the sitting position, it would feel as if your weight is falling straight to the chair and your head rising above it all.
When you inhale in sequential breathing, you breathe in slowly letting the air go from your chest down to your rib cage, then the diaphragm to the lower back and down to the pelvic bowl. Upon exhalation, the air leaves your body in reverse order, from your pelvic area up through expelling from the throat. Another form of breathing in Pilates is diaphragmatic breathing.
Pilates challenges your body in unique ways and requires different types of breathing such as the lateral, sequential or diaphragmatic. Without learning the proper ways to breathe, your Pilates experience will not be truly successful.