Pilates and Yoga – which are both classified as mind-body exercises – both employ different ways of breathing. In Pilates, thoracic or lateral breathing is used. What this means is that we breathe in through the nose. During the Pilates breathing process, we expand our lower rib cage while keeping our abdominals contracted. (Just as an aside, ‘contracting your abdominals’ doesn’t just mean keeping your belly button in. When your instructor tells you to contract your abdominals you must contract your belly button and, at the same time, contract your pelvic floor.)
On the other hand, in Yoga we used abdominals or diaphragmatic breathing. During this process you’ll breathe in and will draw the air into your abdominal region. Your rib cage won’t move that much. This type of breathing is called Ujjayi breathing. Read more about its benefits here.
Pilates breathing has a number of benefits for you both during your practice as well as in other aspects of your day-to-day life. Read on to find out more.
Why breathing in deeply is good for you
Oxygen sustains most functions in our body. Literally, it gives us life as if we are suffocated, and are deprived of oxygen, we die. Joseph Pilates, in his book Return to Life Through Contrology, explained it best why we need to breathe deeply: “Lazy breathing converts the lungs, literally and figuratively speaking, into a cemetery for the deposition of diseased, dying and dead germs as well as supplying an ideal haven for the multiplication of other harmful germs.”
Remember to breathe in class
It’s a strange thing that many Pilates instructors have seen and remark on. During class when students are performing movements, they often forget to breathe! By doing this, they don’t get the full benefit of the exercises that they are doing.
Joseph Pilates designed his exercises to work in tandem with breath. During the part of the exercise that requires the most effort – for example, in the pelvic tilt when you start to articulate your spine upwards – you’ll breathe out. This is so that you can take advantage of the natural contraction of your abdominals which happens when you breathe out to help you during the exercise. Those who hold their breath during the exercise don’t take advantage of this and, as such, may well put strain on parts of their body which they are not supposed to.
Pilates breathing increases lung capacity
In endurance sports, such as running marathons, you need a sustained amount of energy for a long period of time to keep you going.
Oxygen is at the basis of energy production. If this essential element isn’t present no energy will be produced and, as a result, you’ll quickly start to feel tired.
Think about it. When people take short quick breaths – in other words they hyperventilate – they can only exert energy for a short period of time as is the case with sprinters. After their sprint, they have to recover for a prolonged period before they can perform again.
During a marathon, the runner will take long, deep breaths. This means that they can keep on going for longer so that they can finish their respective race.
What Pilates exercise can help you develop your lung capacity?
Many experts agree that one of the best way to develop your lung capacity is by doing the exercise call the hundred:
- Lie on your back on a mat.
- Pull in your belly button and, at the same time, contract your pelvic floor.
- Make sure that your pelvis is in neutral.
- Put both legs into table top. Make sure that your legs are together with your toes gently pointed reaching out of the heel.
- Extend your arms at your sides with your palms facing downwards.
- Pull your shoulders off the mat and pulse your arms.
To learn more about this exercise, follow this link.
Pilates is a fabulous exercise which not only helps you get lean and trim but also has incredible health benefits as we’ve seen from this article. Why not give it a try and see if it works for you?
If you would like to deepen your Pilates practice and introduce others to this discipline, sign up for Trifocus Fitness Academy’s Comprehensive Pilates Course today!