Why We Breathe

“Breathing is the first act of life and the last.” Joseph H Pilates

Breathing is one of the foundational movements of Pilates and there’s even an exercise called Breathing! It seems silly to discuss breathing because we do it everyday without thinking. But the type of breathing in Pilates is diaphragmatic breathing. It’s a deeper breathing that has the inhale through your nose and the exhale out through the mouth. 

When starting Pilates it’s really easy to hold your breath without realizing it. I certainly did! I was a dancer for about 13 years and even when I danced I would hold my breath. Both my dance and Pilates teachers had to remind me often to breathe and now I remind myself. 

When focusing on the exercises it’s easy to forget to breathe. Deep breathing is important because it helps you move. The movement is simpler and more fluid. It’s like fish swimming in water or dolphins doing flips out of water. 

There’s even an exercise called swimming!

Typically the inhale is when we extend our spine and the exhale is when we flex our spine. Joseph Pilates studied the movement of animals, specifically cats. When cats stretch it’s called pandiculation and that’s the same as the inhale in Pilates.

Pandiculation is taking a big inhale when waking up in the morning and stretching your body in all directions.

We use the same concept when working with the springs. When inhaling, the spring opens and exhaling closes the spring. You can picture an accordion being the springs and the inhale stretches the accordion and during the exhale the accordion is squeezed together which is what happens to your diaphragm. 

The rolling exercises in Pilates help push the air out of your lungs. It’s hard to balance, roll, and not too far, then come back up, and balance!! But focus on the breath and it will help you!

This is true for any twisting. Breathe out during your twist and it is like you’re ringing out a washcloth full of water. Inside your body your spine is being rung out of tension.

You can practice deeper breathing by inhaling for 5 seconds and exhaling for 5 seconds. Try it! You will feel more relaxed.

-Rachel Thompson

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