Pilates Day: Why breathing correctly is important for this exercise

Pilates Day: Why breathing correctly is important for this exercise


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Pilates Day, celebrated on the first Saturday of May every year, looks to promote awareness and appreciation of the Pilates method around the world. This year, let’s talk about breathing – an unconscious, natural and spontaneous process, but also one of the most important fundamentals of Pilates, said Kavita Prakash, founder, and principal instructor, Pilates for Wellbeing.

“We cannot stress enough how important it is to learn to breathe correctly and to one’s maximum capacity, especially, in the current times when all of us are battling to build our immunity and stay healthy,” she said.

“How many of us actually focus on our breathing patterns? Not many of us, I guess. For starters, it is important to become familiar with and understand how we breathe. Numerous studies have proven that deep attentive breathing helps us to handle our reactions to emotions, stress, and anxiety better, it can also help release tight muscular holding patterns and tensions. It also contributes positively to our mental health,” she added.

As Joseph Pilates rightly quoted in his book, Return to Life, “Breathing is the first act of life and the last. Above all, learn to breathe correctly.”

Let’s look at why breathing is so important in Pilates.

Pilates is a mind-body movement practice that focuses on the breath to facilitate correct muscle activation without getting grippy. It helps one to move freely and safely thereby allowing exercises to be done mindfully with a lot of control and precision.

The Pilates method uses lateral breathing or ribcage breathing. Inhalation is through the nostril directing the breath into the rib cage laterally and exhalation is always through the mouth by drawing the rib cage together. One is consistently required to draw the belly muscles towards the spine during both inhalation and exhalation. This is to maintain contraction of the abdominal muscles which in turn helps to maintain stability and offer support to the spinal column.

Pilates exercises are designed to be rhythmic and dynamic in nature. Hence, establishing a set breathing pattern while practicing Pilates helps to recruit every tiny little muscle in the body, making it a full-body workout.

Pilates breathing has many benefits — it helps to increase circulation, promotes cardiovascular activity, manages and relieves chronic pain, decompresses the spine, improves sleeping patterns, builds immunity, detoxifies the body and improves digestion. It is also important to note that the power of deep breathing signifies positive reactions in our body and brain.

Tips for beginners to practice the Pilates breathing

*Sit up tall in a comfortable position. Place both your palms on the side of your ribcage.
*Imagine your ribcage to be like an accordion; Inhale through the nostril, direct the breath into your back to expand the ribcage sideways like the chords of the accordion opens to make music.
*Exhale through the mouth to contract the ribcage like the chords of the accordion squeezes to close.
*Keep the belly pulled in towards the spine both during inhalation and exhalation, more so during exhalation to release every atom of breath out of your lungs.
*Practice this regularly 5-8 times a day.
“Using this imagery to breathe will direct the oxygen into the lungs and carbon dioxide out of the lungs. This method of breathing when practiced regularly will make the lungs work at their maximum capacity and will thereby help to build a strong respiratory system,” mentioned Prakash.

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