"Squeeze every atom of air from your lungs until they are almost as free as air as is a vacuum.” -Joseph Pilates
Many people agree that Joseph Pilates was ahead of his time in terms of his exercise philosophy. He considered his work to be a mind/body/spirit approach to movement which at the time was not as ubiquitous as it is today. To sum up his methodology, students of JPilates defined his teaching with six principles. They are:
In my opinion, the principle of breath is one of the most important aspects of a true Pilates Practice.
- Fresh oxygen to the blood
- Increase in circulation throughout the body
- Calms the body and mind, thus diminishing the “fight or flight” (i.e. stress) response
Pilates Breathing - The "Soft" Inhale:
With Pilates we use lateral or intercostal breathing which means we expand our ribcage to the sides when we inhale. Why? If we inhale out to the sides rather than out into the belly, we maintain our abdominal contraction while we take in oxygen. I always tell people to inhale softly, as if they were smelling a very fragrant flower. Inhaling too deeply can make us feel dizzy and unwell.
Pilates Breathing - The "Forced" Exhale:
During normal expiration the diaphragm, a parachute-shaped muscle that lives in the rib cage, just relaxes. It needs no help from us to float back up the top of the rib cage. However, in Pilates, as we exhale we pull the abdominal wall inwards and force the diaphragm upward. Thus the “forced exhale” that we try to use in every exercise engages the core and "squeezes every atom of air" from our lungs.
Practice: Place your hands of the sides of your ribcage. Inhale into your ribs while still keeping a slight contraction in your tummy. Now exhale and pull your abdominals in even further as the ribs also narrow.
Use this breathing in your practice and feel the difference. Let your breath enhance your sense of body awareness. Taking good care of your body by stretching and strengthening will translate into feeling your absolute best in your daily life!
Breathe well in your practice = Breathe better in life.