The Breath, in Pilates and Life

This is the first in a series of blog posts following my Learn Pilates Beginner’s Calendar. You can find the “how to” video associated with this post on my Instagram.

As Pilates once said, “the breath is the first act of life and the last. Our very life depends on it.” Unfortunately many of us don’t give much thought to the breath until we find ourselves short of it.

The breath:

  • Initiates the gas exchange in the lungs used to oxygenate the blood and release carbon dioxide from the body
  • Allows us to assess and control our current emotional state
  • Can assist us in accomplishing an exercise (i.e., endurance to get through the Pilates Hundred)
  • Provides feedback on our ability to perform an exercise and level of exertion

Joe Pilates’ struggle with asthma and other health conditions inspired his lifetime work to find the most efficient breath and movement regimen for improving health. Breathing efficiently not only allows for more awareness of our deeper core muscles but also allows for a greater exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide within the lungs, which means more oxygen for your muscles (and brain!) to use as you workout.

In Pilates there are several ways to breath. Today we’ll focus on three dimensional breathing. Start by imagining your torso as a cylinder. When you inhale this cylinder will expand outwards in all directions (front-back, side-side, up-down). When you exhale, the cylinder will squeeze in from all directions. I’m not super picky about breathing through the nose or the mouth. There is a time and place for both depending on what type of pranayama or breath-work you are practicing but I prefer nose breathing over mouth breathing for Pilates.

I recently started reading The Oxygen Advantage by Patrick McKeown for a functional movement course I am taking and I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in learning more about the functionality of the breath. I also highly recommend any of Kathryn Bruni-Young’s podcasts on the importance of the breath and it’s role in movement.

Bottom line, just breathe 🙂

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