There is a lot of focus on the Pilates breathing technique in our sessions, and I’d like to explain why we practice it, and how it can also help you relieve stress.
The Pilates breath can also be referred to as Lateral Thoracic Breathing. The focus on the movement in the rib cage can help you close and compact your core muscles on your outward breath, which in turn helps your body use the core muscles much better to support your posture.
We also talk about the engagement of the core muscles, and it’s important that we physically switch them on. You can imagine that your core is a cube – you have stomach muscles at the front and sides, pelvic floor at the bottom, your back muscles at the back and your diaphragm at the top. When you breathe out, the diaphragm lowers. The breathing technique that we practice is that when the diaphragm lowers, the rib cage closes, the pelvic floor lifts and the stomach muscles engage. This can take a while to feel more natural, but keep practicing and you’ll get there!!
The idea is that you always Exhale on the Effort – so you breathe out on the toughest part of the exercise. As you take on that tougher movement, the core muscles support and stabilise. Even when you are working a different area of the body, for example arms or legs, a stronger and tighter core will help you perform the exercise better, and help you avoid putting stress on your back.
There is an element of stress relief with the Pilates breath too. The focus on a longer outward breath is practised widely as a calming technique. From experience, I can vouch that when I start to feel overwhelmed I can place my hands on my ribs and take a few deep breaths, and that can help me focus.
The next time you start to feel stress levels rise, see if you can take a few Pilates breaths to help ground yourself. It could just be some deep breaths without the core engagement, or you could take the time to add that in. See how you feel – and don’t feel silly if you are around other people. I do this often in supermarket queues!