We all know how important breathing is in everyday life. If we don’t breathe, we don’t live. However it seems to be that we aren’t taught to breathe correctly. Especially when it comes to Pilates. Often I see lots of emphasis put in when to breathe in and out, but very little put on how to breathe correctly. If we aren’t breathing correctly then it has little effect whether we breathe in and out at the right time.
As Joseph Pilates said: “above all learn how to breathe correctly”.
Since learning and incorporating breathing into my small group Pilates classes and Therapy sessions, I have seen benefits increase greatly to participants.
As stated above, much of the emphasis is put on when to breath in and out during Pilates exercises. I believe this offers value but only after we understand how to breathe effectively. A lot of time I will see new participants but too much emphasis getting the in and the out breath right, when actually it only really offers benefit if the breathing is correct from the start. If you find yourself frustrated in Pilates as you are not getting the breathing in the right order, I really wouldn’t worry about at all in the first stage as there are far more important things we can focus on.
What I usually see when people are new to the class is they shallow breathe (holding the breath into the top of the chest and the ribs). Potential risks when we shallow breath are overworked neck and shoulders muscle, which can lead to feeling of having our shoulders up around our ears, with also that feeling of tension and aching in the neck and upper shoulders.
I cover two types of breathing in my class: Diaphragm breathing and lateral Thoracic breathing. We may have experienced on or both of these in your Pilates classes. I would say both are very important and one is not more important than the other. Here is a quick summary of the two:
Now let’s go back to shallow breathing again. If you are a shallow breather it is unlikely that you will be doing either of these types of breathing correctly. So along with those stiff neck and shoulders that come along with shallow breathing, there is also that chance we have less mobility in that mid back (anyone here get stiff there at all?) whilst also less activation one of main inner abdominal muscles (anyone here have a potential “weak core”?).
So this gives you a brief overview of the breathing and what it is vital to success. If your Pilates class doesn’t focus on breathing then I would suggest taking the time to learn it and start to incorporate when you attend Pilates to enhance the benefit of the class. If your class does focus on breathing it is worth noting that (like any of principles in Pilates) it is not an easy skill to get right initially. It will take a lot of time, patience and practice to get right just like everything else.
If you have any questions over breathing, please do not hesitate to get in touch.
Look out for the next article in our series, it will be released soon.
Pilates Instructor & Therapist, helping you understand why we do what we do!