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The importance of breath in Pilates

To get the most from your Pilates practice, the exercises should be performed in tandem with the breath. Find out the benefits of breathing correctly and how it can help your Pilates practice.

The belief that breathing exercises or controlled breathing techniques can give health benefits to both our body and mind is held by many cultures. These can range from improving circulation and respiration, helping to alleviate and control stress levels, lowered blood pressure, better muscle activation and clearer focus. Different disciplines and sports use different breathing techniques, none of which are right or wrong or better for you. It’s simply a different method to get the most from the activity you are doing. Generally, in Pilates we inhale to prepare and exhale on the exertion.

There are three main reasons why we use breath patterns in Pilates:

  • Using the technique of lateral thoracic or inter-costal breathing, where we take the air into the side and base of the rib cage rather than breathing into the belly enables us to keep the deep abdominals contracted on both inhalation and exhalation. Maintaining this core contraction helps us to maintain our neutral position and protect the spine.

  • It stops us from holding our breath! Our muscles need oxygen to work. Many people when performing an exercise, especially a high level, strenuous one, will hold their breath. This can lead to muscle tension and increase blood pressure.

  • It sets the dynamic of the exercise and helps to pace the movement.

To get the most from Pilates exercises they should be performed in tandem with the breath. Breathing effectively was something that Joseph Pilates felt very passionately about. When your breath is consistently shallow, stagnant air, residue, and pollutants can accumulate in the lungs, which can lead to low energy, and toxic build-up. Inhaling deeply and, just as importantly, exhaling completely supports healthier lungs which in turn, gives our bodies nourishment and energy. As Joseph Pilates said

“Breathing is the first act of life and the last. Our very life depends on it.”


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