As you undertake the Pilates work, you will find your instructor giving you a variety of breathing exercises and breathing cues. What’s all the fuss about breathing?

Why is Breathing Important?

  1. Breathing draws oxygen into the body. Oxygen is required by all the body’s tissues to carry out organ and muscle function.
  2. Breathing expels carbon dioxide and other waste gasses from the body.
  3. Many of the muscles involved in breathing are also involved in maintaining the body’s posture. Improved breathing often leads to improved posture, and vice versa.
  4. Breathing is related to blood pressure. Specifically, holding the breath increases blood pressure.
  5. Breathing is an important tool for promoting relaxation and body awareness.

What is the Optimal Way to Breathe?

It is important to note that there is no one ‘right’ way to breathe. Rather, there are some five or six different general methods of breathing, most of which are appropriate in some circumstances. Three of the most common methods of breathing are:

  1. Belly/diaphragmatic breathing (also known as piston breathing) is generally an appropriate form of breathing to use when at rest.
  2. Lateral/side rib breathing (also known as bellows breathing) is a good way to breathe when exercising.
  3. Upper chest breathing (also known as apical or siphon breathing) should typically be avoided.

When performing light exercise or many daily activities, a combination of belly breathing and lateral breathing is generally most effective.

How Should I Breathe in Pilates?

There is no one simple rule for how to breathe in Pilates. Rather, there are a number of considerations, including:

  1. How does breathing affect my ability to engage my core?
  2. How does the spine move during inhalation and exhalation?
  3. What are the general guidelines for when to inhale and exhale during a Pilates exercise?
  4. Is it possible to over-breathe or under-breathe?

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