Complementary Therapists > Pilates > Breathing
Pilates Principles - Breathing
Breathing provides the body with oxygen to live and perform everyday tasks. In order to gain the most benefit from Pilates exercises it is important to breathe effectively and efficiently. It is important to analyse how you breathe and this is best done by standing in front a of a mirror.
While breathing try to determine if your lower stomach expands, or do your collarbones or breastbone rise, when you inhale? Is there any movement in the lower part of your ribs or in your back?
From a Pilates perspective poor breathing techniques include raising the shoulders while breathing or letting the stomach expand as you inhale. The former involves shallow breathing and the latter, while relaxing, does not keep the lower abdominals back to the spine and this is necessary for Pilates.
Thoracic or Lateral Breathing
The best breathing technique for Pilates is to breathe in a manner that inflates the ribcage to the fullest extent. By extending the lower ribcage you increase the capacity for oxygen intake. This makes maximum use of the full capacity of the lungs. A positive side effect is that the muscles between the ribs are worked making the upper body more supple. This is known as lateral or thoracic breathing.
Stand or sit with a towel or scarf wrapped around your ribs and crossed over at the front.
Cross your arms holding the opposite ends of the scarf. Breathe in permitting your ribs to expand the towels. As you exhale gently squeeze the towel to help empty the lungs fully, relaxing the ribcage.
Take care not to raise the ribcage too high. Avoid over-breathing which may cause dizziness and breathe normally.
All Pilates exercises meant to involve the correct muscle recruitment by using the breath. An incorrect breathing technique may hinder a Pilates movement by inhaling or exhaling at the wrong time.
Many people, including people that are otherwise fit, struggle to master their breathing at first but once mastered it can become second nature. The general rules are:
By breathing out on the movement you will be able to relax into the stretch and avoids tensing as you work through the Pilates exercise. Exhalation also provides greater core stability during the most difficult part of the exercise movement. Holding your breath during exercise can stress the heart and cause other complications.
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