You would think that you’d have breathing down by now since you’ve been doing it since you were born. Yet, many people aren’t breathing to their full potential. They often end up favoring shallow breaths which can be harmful to your body long-term – but a few simple breathing exercises can correct this!
Breathing is one of the most important principles in Pilates. Joseph Pilates himself emphasized breathing as a powerful tool. It’s also one of the first things we work on when you come into the studio.
Why Try Breathing Exercises?
In Pilates, we favor 3-D breath (also known as posterolateral breathing) that deeply fills your lungs and expands the sides and backs of your ribs. It’s the best way to engage the deep core, particularly the transversus abdominis (TVA) whilst breathing in through the nose, and out through the mouth. This allows you to fully nourish your body.
Breathing correctly doesn’t just have benefits for your Pilates movements. It has incredible effects on your everyday life as well. Here are three breathing exercises for peak performance, mental, and physical health.
Exercise #1: For Relaxation
Need to unwind? Practice lateral breathing before bedtime to relax and decompress after the day. When breathing for relaxation, avoid tension in the neck and shoulders. Sit with a resistance band wrapped around your lower ribs or about level with where you’d have your bra strap. Then breathe into the lower and side of your ribs, expanding the band. It should become easier and you’ll need to focus less on ‘where’ to breathe after some practice.
Exercise #2: For Soothing Anxiety
Pilates can improve your mental health, but you can’t do Pilates all the time (we wish!). You can, however, take your breathing exercises with you. Breathing is frequently used by practitioners to quell anxiety or panic attacks, as well as helping to promote positive mental health. Ground yourself by inhaling deeply, pausing at the top of the inhale and hold the breath for a moment. Exhale fully and visualize your worries or stress dissipating.
Top Tip: Doing this breathing exercise regularly creates a foundation for mindfulness and meditation. Which can really help you stress less.
Exercise #3: For Athletic Performance
Increased oxygen and blood flow from deep breathing gives your muscles exactly what they need, so you can get the best out of them whether you’re doing Pilates or other types of exercise. Ultimately, practicing proper breathing improves your performance.
Do this by lying on your back. Put your hands on your hips with your fingers inside your hipbones (closer to the midline). Inhale, and as you exhale, engage your deep core muscles. Feel your abs cinch together around your waist like a corset. Your belly button should sink towards your spine.
See? Breathing is more than just your daily in and out, it can truly enhance your body! Give these breathing exercises a try and reap the benefits. To learn how to apply other breathing techniques, sign up for the next Pilates in the Grove class here.
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