Foundations: Breathing in Pilates

Foundations: Breathing

Quick Intro: Breathing in Pilates

Breathing is often the first thing we learn in Pilates.  It’s the first thing we do in life.

It’s the foundation of our existence and provides the rhythm to life.  Breathing techniques can be used to decrease stress, raise or lower blood pressure, improve aerobic capacity and calm the mind and spirit.  Breathing has been used in every culture to change mind and physical states in meditation, exercise and daily living.

In order to get the most out of your Pilates practice, we need to become aware of how we’re breathing.


First things first:

In through the nose.

Out through the mouth!


What’s it good for?

Yeah… ok… LOL!  – but why are breathing exercises useful and are there any muscle strengthening benefits?

🌟  They help to promote movement.

🌟  Increase mobility.

🌟  Improve lung capacity.

🌟  Focus the mind.

🌟  Improve strength: diaphragm, pelvic floor, transversus abdominis, internal and external intercostals, serratus posterior, superior and inferior, the scalenes, and upper trapezius! (Read this book -it’s an anatomy book, but beautifully written and illustrated – a total TREASURE!).


Diaphragmatic vs Posterio-Lateral

These first two breathing techniques are perfect contrasts!  You could do worse than think of them as opposites…


… is relaxed and relaxing.  It comes to us naturally, most people rarely stop to notice it!


… is energising and active … it takes concentration, effort and energy…


Diaphragmatic Breathing – becoming aware

Breathing with the diaphragm – “Belly Breathing”.  A natural breath good for relaxation and stress relief.  Explore this type of breathing to understand how we breathe and to contrast it with the more “active” breathing explained below.



Imagine the dome of the diaphragm rising and lowering as you exhale and inhale.  Imagine that as you inhale, air is pouring into your body like water into a jug that gets filled from the bottom up.  This air (orwater if you like the image) puffs out the belly.


Lateral breathing – becoming aware

We are going to use our abdominal muscles to stop the diaphragm lowering into the abdomen.  We noticed how this causes the bellow to balloon out.  This means that we don’t have our abdominal muscles active at that time.



This energising breath allows us to have active abdominals during our Pilates practice – essential to both strengthen them and to protect the spine in bending exercises.

Another reason we really want to be conscious that we are using lateral breathinging is “integrity of the trunk”.  Diaphragmatic breathing can cause the ribs to pop out and destabilise the spine, allowing the pelvis to rock backwards and forwards.

In contrast, lateral breathing encourages the deep stabilising muscles to engage and it’s these which stabilise the whole lumbo pelvic (lower back and spine) region.

The inhale is the expansion into the side of the ribs and the exhale is the contraction.  But you might also find that to keep the abdominal region pulling in on the inhale takes a great deal of abdominal contraction and awareness.  It may take some time to totally get this, but keep persevering as it will come, sooner or later.


Another awareness raising technique…

Wrap a towel, belt or theraband around your torso and as you inhale, feel the ribs expand into the band:



Any Questions?

Ask away – I love to help!  Click here for the Contact Page 🙂 – or leave a comment at the bottom of the post – see you there…

To find a short deliberate pace, beginners workout that looks specifically these exercises go to the Foundations section of our video page.

Miguel 🙂

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