One of the key principles of Pilates is breathing. Focus on the breathing cycle is essential in Pilates and is one of the most difficult principles for beginners to master. In Pilates, we learn the lateral breathing technique. We frequently coordinate our Pilates exercises with inhale and exhale patterns, and use the breath to initiate and support movement. We teach exhalation to occur with movements that require the greatest effort. The reasoning behind this is that the diaphragm and deep abdominal muscles activate earlier in expiration than in inhalation providing the spine with the greatest local muscle stability.
Pilates is well known as a multi-tasking exercise method and learning lateral breathing is no different. Keeping the core muscles engaged and also taking a big inhale at the same time can feel like an exercise in advanced coordination. Keep practicing though and it will become easier. The most important thing is not to hold your breath during the Pilates exercises!
In lateral breathing we draw the breath into the back of the body and the sides of the ribcage. Try placing your hands on either side of the body around the lower rib cage. Take a deep breath into the sides and back of the body. Feel the ribs expand into your hands as the lungs fill. As you breath out your hands will draw back towards each other. Now practice breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth. Watch that you aren’t breathing into your tummy (so that your tummy is rising and falling with each breath) or apically (using the neck and shoulder muscles to breath).
As you practice lateral breathing, you will find that you are able to perform Pilates exercises with greater ease.