Pilates breathing is not easy, but the benefits are well worth it..... Traditionally we are taught to breath only into the front part of our lungs. In Pilates, if one has mastered this new way of breathing, the front of the lungs do not rise and fall; in fact, the front of the body appears to remain immobile.
In order to maintain a "still" front of the chest, imagine that someone is getting ready to punch you in the belly...which will cause you to contract through the front of the ribs. Another way of accomplishing this posture is to cough, and then maintain the "closed ribcage" that you created when you coughed, as you practice sending your breath into the back and sides of your lungs.
When beginning the breathing your navel is pulling in toward your spine and then imagine that you can squeeze your navel up behind your ribs. Continue to squeeze the navel toward the spine and up behind the ribs as you exhale your breath through your mouth. Your lower jaw should remain relaxed as you exhale all the air out.
This kind of breath work results in a greater lung capacity; strengthens your abdominals; burns calories; and when taken into real life, provides your body with 3 times the amount of oxygen it normally receives.
While performing the Pilates work, one inhales to prepare for the exertion or the hardest part of the work, and then exhales during the work.
“Breathing is the first act of life, and the last.” —Joseph Pilates
Breathing is one of the Pilates principles and a foundation for movement. Lateral breathing focuses on expanding the rib cage laterally “while maintaining a consistent inward pull of the deep abdominal muscles during inhalation and exhalation” (Isacowitz & Clippinger 2011). This technique helps Pilates practitioners achieve stability and proper alignment. Try this visual cue when teaching lateral breathing to new clients:
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