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Five Pilates Breathing Exercises

Five Pilates Breathing Exercises

By Claire Sparrow

As we all gear up to face the festive season I thought it would be useful to share a series of short blogs that will give you some tips and prompts of how you can continue your mind body practice of Pilates, stay healthy and reduce your stress this festive season. In our first blog we’ll explore the principle of Pilates Breathing with my top five exercises to help you keep breathing and reduce your stress.

Did you know Pilates is not just the exercises we teach you, it is also a set of principles that have been extrapolated from the recorded work and teachings of Joseph Pilates passed down by Pilates Elders such as my mentor Lolita San Miguel. Pilates is often linked to improving posture and core strength and linked to breath. Joseph Pilates is thought to have talked about posture and particularly prioritised breath and not core strength. Those commonly accepted principles of Pilates are:

  1. Breathing
  2. Concentration
  3. Control
  4. Centring
  5. Precision
  6. Flowing Movements

Notice that breathing is top of this list because it was the overriding most important underlying principle and Joseph Pilates believed was the first source of health. He famously said that “Before any real benefit can be derived from physical exercise, one must first learn how to breathe properly our very life depends on it”. He was not one to mince his words, he was honest to a fault and when it came to his method he was proud and adamant that Pilates could cure all ales.

We know a bit more about why breath is so important with books and methods dedicated to it, it seems the world has caught up with what Joseph Pilates was evangelical about in the last century. People often ask what is Pilates breathing and my tongue-in-cheek response is, “in and out”. In all seriousness though, one way I describe is that, Pilates breathing is movement from the inside out, encouraging your respiratory breathing system to move your musculoskeletal system. Think of it this way, if your breathing gear (lungs and diaphragm) have limited movement because you sit scrunched up at your desk causing you to breathe into your chest and shoulders, resulting in significantly reduced movement of your spine and ribs than you would experience if you were breathing deeper and lower. Another important result of this shallow breathing is that your pelvic floor will NOT be getting the necessary stimulation from the motion of your diaphragm making it hard to function properly.

I bet you are starting appreciate just how important breathing is as it relates to movement and wondering what simple things can you do to improve this even when you aren’t at your regular weekly Pilates classes at Chapel Allerton Pilates. Here are my top five Pilates exercises based on the principle of breathing

Cat Stretch

Set-up: kneeling on all fours, hands underneath your shoulders and knees underneath your hips.
Cue: curve your spine from your tail to your head. Uncurl your spine from your tail to your head.
Breathing: exhale as you move your spine, hold the shape to inhale.

Joe’s Pose


Set-up: set your bottom back from your all four position, Place, your head down on the floor in front of your knees and wrap your hands back around your feet.
Cue: be as rounded in your spine as you can
Breathing: imagine, opening the back of your body, as you inhale like a balloon inflating.

Cleopatra


Set-up: sitting on the side of your hip, with your legs, swept to the other side, knees bent.
Cue: Reach both arms over towards your legs.
Breathing: hold the possession and breathe deeply into the side of your body, expanding your ribs, more and more with each breath.

Side to Side


Set-up: Lie on your back with your knees bent and together, arms long in a V by your side.
Cue: Let your knees slowly fall from side to side keeping your shoulders heavy on the floor.
Breathing: Inhale as your knees go to the side and exhale as they return to the centre.

Washing Machine


Set-up: kneeling on all fours, hands underneath your shoulders and knees underneath your hips.
Cue: circle your body, as if you were inside the drum of a washing machine.
Breathing: find a continuous flow of breath.

If you have been suffering from the symptoms of long covid or other upper respiratory conditions these pilates exercises to promote breath will be very useful for you. If you are currently pregnant put some big pillows under your head for side to side.

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