Conscious breathing is its own exercise. Especially Pilates breathing, it takes practice and focus. How deep is your breath? Right now the world collectively has its shoulders up around its ears taking shallow breaths. We are all very stressed, understandably.
It is even more important now to listen and notice your own personal breathing. Does your neck feel tight? Is it hard to relax? I’m noticing these things in myself too. If you meditate regularly it’s probably easy for you to sit and focus on breathing. I’m not one of those people yet.
You might think that deep breathing is a scary thing right now with a contagious virus running amuck. The opposite is true. Not only do rib muscles get exercised during focused breathing, but signals get sent to the nervous system that increase feelings of calm and relaxation. This diminishing stress helps support your immune system which of course will help you fight off any viruses or bacteria.
I use exercise to focus on breathing and letting go of stress. Breathing is an integral part of Pilates. We generally use the exhale to help stabilize the torso while doing a movement and the inhale to connect with the back of your lungs, an underutilized area. Pilates breath is this: inhale with the nose and exhale through the mouth.
The most important part of breathing in Pilates is connecting the breath to the movement. Inhaling helps certain types of movement and the exhale helps other types of movement. If you follow your instructor’s directions you’ll know when the inhale and exhale should be.
The issue that comes up again and again in my clients is consistently using the breath with the movements. They start the movement or exercise with correct breathing but then give in to the fatigue they are feeling. The breathing turns into an aerobic type where the mouth is open and air is being sucked in the through the mouth or they hold their breath when they should be inhaling and then gasp when the rep is over. This is inefficient breathing and the air will only reach the top part of the lungs, in other words shallow breathing.
I’ve found that the key to connecting breath to movement is focusing on the inhale. Practice feeling the dimensions of the lungs inside the ribcage by keeping your mouth closed while inhaling. You will automatically feel your lungs fill up more fully, accessing the sides and back of your lungs.
The breathing in Pilates is not easy, Pilates usually has challenging choreography while handling equipment plus breathing that has to match the movement.
The better you are at inhaling at the right time following Pilates principles the more you’ll get out of the exercise. The better you’ll feel and the better your immune system will be.
Here is an article on Healthline if you want to try another types of breathing exercises.