We are working our way through the Ten Principles of Pilates, and today we zero in on breath. If you’ve missed the previous two principles, simply click here to catch up!
Life is very busy: We have our 9-5 jobs, our families, our social lives, and we all do our best to fit in personal time whether it is for fitness or reflection or decompression from stress. And no surprise, we breathe throughout our day without so much as a thought to keep it going. So why put energy or thought into something that is natural work of the body, something that is practically a reflex?
Breathing is the first act of life, and the last. – Joseph Pilates
That is rather profound, if you think on it. He lived to attest to proper breathing not just in his exercises, but in his daily life.
Above all, learn how to breathe properly. Squeeze every atom of air from your lungs until they are almost as free of air as is a vacuum. Stand erect again and observe how your lungs will automatically completely refill themselves with fresh air.
And he was right about it. Of many things, deep breathing has been shown to help decrease stress, one of the main antagonists of the modern world. So in your Pilates practice, we begin our session with a few very intentional deep breaths to calm our minds and prepare our body with a fresh intake of oxygen. We engage the abdominals and breathe laterally and deeply into the ribcage and into the back of the lungs, filling them with as much air as we can hold, and exhaling fully. This little practice automatically focuses your mind deep into your body to begin a good Pilates session.
Then, each Pilates exercise has a particular breath pattern, and it does differ a bit based on a particular discipline or a teacher’s personal preference. Generally speaking, though, your instructor will have you exhale as you exert force to complete a movement, and inhale as you return to the start. Your breath will aid in the execution of your movement. During each breath pattern you should inhale fully, and exhale as much air out of the lungs as possible. Breathing is important work in your Pilates practice!
Anxiety or stress will have us breathing shallow and in short breath cycles, but Pilates will work to correct this problem, leaving you feeling calm and more level-headed throughout your day. Inhale fully, exhale fully. Inhale deeply, creating energy in the body, and exhale your difficulties and stress. Be mindful of your breath and you will reap the rewards.