Learning to breathe fully is one of the Core Pilates Principles
Central to the principles of Pilates is connecting the mind, body and spirit. Learning techniques to control and improve your breath is one of the greatest links between the mind and body. The action of breathing is controlled by the autonomous nervous system which means it’s an action that takes place in our bodies without us having to think about it. Drawing your focus onto your breath and taking control of it allows us to become more aware of the present moment, and mindful of our body’s wellness.
In your Pilates classes, you’ll often hear your Pilates instructor referring to Lateral Breathing. The main reason for this is that during Pilates exercises we activate our core muscles, and this restricts movement of the abdomen. So, we need to learn to breathe efficiently by expanding our ribcage to take in a full deep breath.
However, in the beginning of your Pilates class, while setting your intention, bringing awareness to the present moment, or at the end of the class during your meditation, your instructor will often draw your attention to deep belly breathing (diaphragmatic breathing). Breathing in filling your belly, then chest, up to your collarbone. And breathing out from your collarbone, then chest then belly. This full, deep breath teaches us to use more of our lung capacity that is available to us.
There are many additional breathing techniques that your Pilates teacher may introduce in your classes from the Pranayama yoga practices, such as bhramari breath, nadi shodhana, kapalabhati and ujjayi breath. Each of these practices are designed for a different purpose, such as balancing your left and right brain and body, warming or cooling the body, increasing your lung capacity, improving your focus, or finding stillness.
Some of the benefits of practising Pilates breathwork are:
- Learning to perform Pilates movements in rhythm with your breath.
- Lengthening and decompressing your spine, improving your posture and maintaining the natural S-shape of the spine.
- Increasing your lung capacity, reducing the number of breaths taken per minute.
- Improving physical performance in athletic activities.
- Increasing endurance and core strength.
- Increasing oxygen flow throughout your body.
- Improving blood circulation and blood pressure.
- Stimulating your heart and other organs for better functioning.
- Improving white blood cell formation which helps fight off diseases.
- Calming your mind and reducing stress.
Becoming aware of the way you are breathing during your Pilates exercises can also improve the way you perform the exercise itself, giving you the maximum benefit of each exercise. So, the next time you take out your mat to perform your Pilates workout, take note of how you’re breathing before, during and after the class. Follow the breathing instructions from your Pilates teacher and become mindful of the effects each breath has on your movement; appreciating your lungs for the functions and actions they allow your body to perform.