The Importance of Breathing When Doing Pilates

The Importance of Breathing When Doing Pilates

Breathing may not seem that important. After all, you breathe automatically every day without the need for practice. However, Pilates breathing provides much more than just oxygen to your body. Pilates breathing involves the coordination of specific muscles, and when done properly can enrich your Pilates reformer workout.

Mindful breathing, as used in Pilates, works your pelvic floor and core stabilizing muscles while effectively coordinating with your diaphragm so that you don’t overuse any one muscle. This deep breathing supports every move in Pilates, and this post explains how deep breathing works with our Pilates reformer to enhance your exercise routine and provide you with a deeper abdominal workout.

Pilates reformer

Benefits of Pilates Breathing

Deep breathing leads and supports each movement in Pilates, making it an essential part of any Pilates practice. Pilates regards the mind, body, and breath in a holistic manner, recognizing their connection and impact on each other.

Breathing properly can not only make each workout with your Pilates reformer more effective, but mindful breathing also offers additional benefits:

  • Improves focus: Recent research has highlighted the link between mindful breathing and its cognitive benefits. Attentive breathing improves your overall focus and body awareness, both of which are essential to practicing Pilates.
  • Decreases stress: Mindful breathing has also been associated with decreased anxiety and stress. Focusing on this breathing while working out on your Pilates reformer helps you make this breathing more automatic. So you can practice this breathing outside of Pilates as well to better regulate your stress level.
  • Relieves tension: Your nervous system is divided into two parts—the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. Put simply, one part controls the fight-or-flight response, and the other controls the relax response. Both systems continue to be active, but mindful breathing can quiet the sympathetic system that ignites your fight-or-flight response, relieving tension and increasing your relax response.
  • Lowers blood pressure: The same mindful breathing that quiets the sympathetic part of your nervous system stimulates the parasympathetic system, the system that offers the relax response. In stimulating this part of your nervous system, your brain releases chemicals that reduce stress as well as lower your blood pressure.
  • Strengthens muscles used for breathing: Your lungs are muscles and remain strong as they expand and contract while you breathe, regaining their elasticity better when your breathing efficiency increases. However, if you don’t exhale fully, you trap gas inside of your lungs, reducing their ability to regain that elasticity needed for effective breathing when you exercise and perform everyday tasks. Not exhaling fully also leaves less room for the diaphragm to move. The focused breathing you use while working out on your Pilates reformer increases the ability of your lungs to fully empty. This emptying gives your diaphragm room to move so you can breathe efficiently and effectively and allows your lungs to operate as they should.
  • Increases lung efficiency: When you breathe normally, you don’t fill your lungs to capacity. Diaphragmatic breathing, done specifically with movements on your Pilates reformer, allows you to fill your lungs. Filling your lungs to capacity improves the efficiency of your lungs and all systems in your body that rely on oxygen.
  • Offers better circulation and respiration: The controlled breathing of Pilates uses breath efficiently, so you use less energy and effort when you breathe. This focused and full inhaling and exhaling releases the oxygen from your lungs without recruiting other muscles from the neck or chest, allowing your lungs to empty fully and increasing oxygen to the brain and other systems.

The benefits offered by focused breathing reveal the mind-body connection recognized by the practice of Pilates. While mindful breathing stimulates your brain, your brain responds with a positive impact on the physical system of your body. On the other hand, unfocused breathing can leave specific core muscles unprotected during workouts on your Pilates reformer, exposing you to injury and less effective workouts.

Pilates reformer

The Philosophy of Pilates Breathing

All physical activity involves breathing, but every sport or exercise has a specific breathing routine. Sports like swimming and running have sport-specific reasons for breathing a certain way. Coaches and trainers in every field direct your breathing for maximum efficiency and muscle engagement, and Pilates, like any physical fitness routine or sport, has its own specific breathing practices as well.

Pilates breathing involves focused breathing—intentional, full breaths—designed to accompany each movement. This attention to the detail of breathing allows your entire body to coordinate, giving you not just mindful movement, but mindful breathing as well. This attentive breathing paired with movement offers the body awareness necessary to build stability, strength, and coordination.

Pilates instructors remind you of how to breathe while going through each movement because each movement coordinates with your breath to engage the muscular system that supports your breathing, helping to tone those muscles and work out safely.

When you perform movements on the Pilates reformer, you have external tension added to the movements. Holding your breath or lacking focus with your breathing decreases the efficiency of your workout and the coordination of your muscles and breathing.

On a Pilates reformer from Frame Fitness, you have a 24-inch swivel display to which you can stream your workout. The expert instructors in each video take you through the movements and remind you how to direct your breathing so that you safely get the most out of your workout on the reformer.

The Mechanics of Pilates Breathing

Pilates breathing includes diaphragmatic breathing and lateral breathing. Both types of breathing engage core stabilizers and your pelvic floor while coordinating with your diaphragm for efficient, effective breathing.

  • Diaphragmatic breathing: Instructors may refer to this type of breathing as belly breathing. This deep breathing allows your belly to expand as you breathe in and then deflates as you exhale.
  • Lateral breathing: Some movements on your Pilates reformer make diaphragmatic breathing awkward or impossible, so lateral breathing steps in and allows your ribcage to expand and contract as you inhale and exhale.

Pilates reformer

Regardless of the type of breathing, the focused inhale and exhale work specific abdominal muscles. When you coordinate this breathing with each movement on your Pilates reformer, you tone and coordinate your muscles and increase your body awareness. As you advance, you can use breathing to increase the challenge of the moves. Coupled with adjusting the tension Frame reformer, which offers easy, touch-button controls, you have endless options for adjusting the challenge of your workout.

Rather than trap gas in your lungs, Pilates breathing fully engages the muscles used for breathing and empties the lungs of gases. Doing so focuses movement and engages your abdominal muscles, rather than recruiting other muscles from your back, neck, and shoulders to breathe.

The Difference Between Yoga Breathing and Pilates Breathing

In short, yoga breathing and Pilates breathing don’t work the same way, but both breathing practices use coordinated breathing that stimulates your muscular system. Just like every sport has specific breathing practices to enhance the movement and functionality you need for that sport, yoga and Pilates each have separate breathing practices that enhance their individual movements.

Not one practice works better than the other. Breathing for both yoga and Pilates offers a tool to enhance your movement and center your awareness, so using the proper breathing for each ensures you create an effective outcome. Breathing properly for each means being mindful of the instructor’s cues until the coordination of movement and breathing become more automatic.

To get the most effective workout on your Pilates reformer, you need to incorporate mindful breathing with each movement. With a Frame reformer, you can gain access to expert instructors streaming right to your machine. These instructors can take you safely through each movement, and cue your breathing for an efficient, effective workout. Although focused breathing may feel awkward at first, consistent practice makes mindful breathing automatic and effortless and yields a wealth of benefits for your mind, body, health, and well-being.

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