Breath | Principles of Pilates

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.



Balance | Principles of Pilates

When was the last time you stood on one foot for a while, just to see how long you could manage the task? Go ahead, see how long you can hold it. I started getting bored about twenty seconds in, so I bent my opposite leg and touched the ground, and repeated it ten times before I started getting bored of that, so I sat back down to keep writing to you. 😉

Balance is so very important to our lives. It helps with our posture, proper muscular development and function, it helps to prevent falls and injuries, and is simply necessary for healthy, daily movement. The older you get, the more balance decreases, and it is wise to practice balance in order to keep it. Many in the fitness industry will tell you, “Use it or lose it!” It is true.

When you attempted the balance exercise, was one side easier than the other? We all have one side of the body that is stronger than the other, or one side with a past injury that inhibits us. The body is not perfectly balanced, even down to our internal organs. None of us is perfectly balanced or symmetrical. I struggle with injuries from an accident on the right side of my body, so anything that requires symmetrical work from both sides of my body is a true challenge. I have to work very deep in mind and body to complete even the pelvic curl, let alone roll like a ball or jackknife or short spine. Ahhh balance, you are a tricky one.

I address balance in the general sense and in regards to muscular development/strength in both sides of your body in each class. Think of your side-lying hip work (whether on the mat, the reformer, or the arc!), it takes concentration and effort to stay balanced on one side while using the muscles on the other side of the body, doesn’t it? We also work on balancing your muscles to improve posture. Now every time you come to class you’ll notice how balance exercises are incorporated into your workouts!

We could also talk about the other meaning of balance, finding balance in all areas of life. Perhaps you have a rigorous work schedule, or you have little people at home that demand so much of you, or there is a huge challenge in life that’s stressful–doing the good work of Pilates helps to achieve a balance of mind, body, and spirit. And that is another beneficial type of balance. Don’t neglect your sessions this week, as you will leave feeling refreshed, proud of your body, and of course, balanced.

Awareness | Principles of Pilates

Awareness is important in all aspects of our life. When I’m out at night by myself, you are certain I’m aware of my every surrounding and know just in my purse where my taser is. Awareness is very important–from keeping yourself safe, to reading social situations, to how you operate your body.

Before you walked into a Pilates studio, had anyone ever asked you to find a neutral pelvis? You have probably never considered how the position of your pelvis relates to the position of your spine, or how it might affect the way you walk, or if you could properly engage your back or abdominal muscles by its position. This has everything to do with body awareness.

Take a moment to sit down on a chair. Close your eyes and take a couple of deep breaths. Now contemplate your posture. Uncross your legs and sit up straight on your sit bones. Connect all ten toes to the floor and think about distributing the weight evenly on your feet. Are your knees in line with your hips and ankles? Are your abdominals engaged and ribs actively drawn in? Is your spine extended tall, and are your shoulders slid down your back for proper placement? Is your head sitting in the proper place atop your spine (not forward or tilted)?

Who knew so much work could go into simply sitting properly with good alignment?! If you practice Pilates consistently (and preferably frequently), these things will become second nature by way of working your body with intention. These principles will sink into your very cells and you will begin to improve from the inside out.

Would you like a private session and an analysis of your posture? Contact me to set up a session and begin the good work of Pilates!

Ten Principles of Pilates

This list is what makes Pilates so different from many other types of fitness, as we are not only addressing the body, but the mind in connection with the body, which leads to an overall sense of wellbeing. If you leave your mind out of the equation while conditioning, you are missing the potential for greater growth and achievement.

  1. Awareness
  2. Balance
  3. Breath
  4. Concentration
  5. Center
  6. Control
  7. Efficiency
  8. Flow
  9. Precision
  10. Harmony

Join me in future posts to learn more about each principle and how it relates to your classes and your daily life.