When you come to one of our Pilates Reformer classes, you should hear the following six words pretty frequently: breath, centre, concentration, control, flow, and precision. Why’s that, you ask? Well, these words are the six fundamental principles of Pilates – the key themes that Joseph Pilates taught when he created ‘Contrology’ what is now know as the Pilates Method back in the 1930’s.
But how important is ‘Breath’ really in Pilates (and any exercise come to think of it)? Here’s Joseph’s definition:
“Breathing is the first act of life, and the last. Our very life depends on it. Since we cannot live without breathing it is tragically deplorable to contemplate the millions and millions who have never learned to master the art of correct breathing”
Typically, in Pilates we focus on breathing out with the effort and in on the return. Coordinating breathing with movement is an important part of Pilates and good instructors will continually remind you when to breathe in and when to breathe out. Like everything in Pilates, you should concentrate on each breath and feel the engagement of your powerhouse. Imagine your lungs as a set of bellows used to power your movements. If you breath out on the hardest exertion you will get the greatest engagement from your core muscles which will stabilise and support your spine.
Putting it into Practice:
Try these simple breathing exercises to familiarise yourself with your Pilates breathing:
Abdominal focus: Sit up tall and place your hands on the lower half of your ribcage with your fingertips from each hand lightly touching each other in the centre. Take a breath in and feel your ribcage widening outwards and deepening. Your fingertips will move apart from each other. Now exhale and imagine the sides of your ribcage sinking in towards each other. You should also feel your fingertips coming back towards each other.
Pelvic floor focus: Continue working on the exercise above, but this time as you take a deep breath inwards focus on relaxing your pelvic floor, feeling the release of these muscles downwards. As you exhale now focus on the feeling of the pelvic floor rising upwards. Try not to contract your glutes at the same time to ensure you are isolating the pelvic floor muscles.
Next time you’re in class, spend some time focusing on your breath, it really does help with your movements and get the most out of your exercise.
The Studio Team