When we breathe in, oxygen comes into our lungs and from there it's distributed to every part of our body. Muscles need oxygen to generate energy and move, so it's really important that we breathe fully throughout any kind of exercise, avoiding holding our breath. When you breathe out you expel the used up air, and the action of breathing out helps you stabilize while you're making an effort (e.g. lifting a leg, or curling your biceps)
In Pilates we use a technique called lateral or thoracic breathing, breathing into the ribcage rather than into your abdomen or chest, so we can maintain a mild contraction of core muscles. We also aim to coordinate breath and movement, to create an even flow.
To start increasing your breathing awareness you can practise this simple 2-minute exercise:
- Lie down on your back with knees bent, feet hip-width distance apart, shoulder blades melting onto the mat. Place a towel under your head if you feel any tension in your neck
- Breathe in through the nose, out through the mouth
- Try to start breathing in a rhythmic pattern, e.g. 5 seconds in, 5 seconds out. Don't worry about exactly how many seconds, just find what works for you to fully expel all the air and then fully fill your lungs with fresh air
- While you do this, think about what's happening: is your tummy expanding? or maybe your chest is lifting? or both? is there any tension in your body? Try 'breathing into' any parts of your body that are tense
- Breathe intentionally and as rhythmically as possible for a few breaths
- Place your hands on your lower ribcage and try breathing so that your ribcage expands like a balloon, air filling your torso sideways and filling the space under your armpits
- Breathe into your ribcage for a few breaths
- You're done!