Breathing and the Pilates Method: The Power of the Exhale

Breathing and the Pilates Method: The Power of the Exhale

Thanks for the great response to my first installation, Footwork on the Reformer, part 1.

Many of you asked about breathing and how it relates to both the Footwork Series on the Reformer and also the greater Pilates method. Thanks for entrusting me with this huge topic and I hope you'll find my perspective to be helpful.

What does Joe Pilates say about all this?

We're all familiar with an iconic quote from Joe himself:

“…above all, learn to breathe correctly.”

That sounds important. But how do we do this exactly?

Oh good, he goes on:

Squeeze every atom of air from your lungs until they are almost as free of air as a vacuum. Notice how your lungs automatically completely refill themselves with fresh air.

Indeed. The power of the exhale shall set us free.

In my Pilates education as well as my experience of the Pilates workout in my body I believe our focus should be mainly on a thorough exhalation.

I'm looking at a key word here from Joe: automatically. Do your workout and you can't help but experience a deeper fuller breath. The exertion required in our exercises, the ever-changing position of the body and our commitment to moving get the job done for us.

A teacher once said to me “I can't teach you how to breathe any more than I can teach your heart to beat.”

We're pretty good at breathing. We've been doing it for a while now.

With the introduction of exertion, our body knows what to do.

We. Need. More. Air.

The Power of the Exhale

The bulk of our 500+ Pilates exercises will find us breathing simply as we would while walking down the street. In through the nose and out through the nose if possible, silently and without any undue noise or tension.

Tense and noisy breathing translates directly into unwanted tension in the body, not unlike the locking of our joints. Tension is diverted away from our center in both cases. We want all the exertion in our center, not in our extremities and not in our throats.

However.

Within our beloved Pilates method we do have a handful of exercises specifically designed to increase our lung capacity: our Breathing exercises. Yay!

With the help of these specialized exercises we'll exhale fully, enabling our bodies to “automatically fill up more deeply with fresh air. ” 

We are on the case, Joe.

Some common exercises to give your lungs (and your body) a workout:

The Hundred

Breathing and the Pilates Method: The Power of the Exhale

Right out of the gate no less… our prescribed breathing in this exercise serves to increase our lung capacity as we focus on our long steady exhale. Variations on the inhale/exhale count of this exercise for special populations like opera singers and athletes further challenge breath control.

Double Leg Pull

Breathing and the Pilates Method: The Power of the Exhale

Our signature move in the Pilates method. And boy is it a good one. Soon our lengthened out position here will fold up into a tight ball to force all the air out of the body.

Down Stretch

Breathing and the Pilates Method: The Power of the Exhale

The Down Stretch, I must say, is an exemplary breathing exercise. Perhaps it's my favorite…

The Twisting Exercises

From the Stomach Massage Series to the Short Box Series to Snake/Twist on the Reformer and Wunda Chair. All of our Pilates twisting exercises are designed to wring out the air from our lungs.

Ok actually these guys are my favorites…

Breathing and the Pilates Method: The Power of the Exhale

Our Twist in the Stomach Massage Series is the first rotation of our workout.

Breathing and the Pilates Method: The Power of the Exhale

Next we'll take our Twist onto the Short Box and add a new element to our twisting, the Reach.

Breathing and the Pilates Method: The Power of the Exhale

Our Twist position gets more complex as we proceed further into our workout.

Breathing and the Pilates Method: The Power of the Exhale

And even a nice Twist on the Mat, where we've also got the Saw, Criss Cross and the Corkscrew.

Enjoy this short tutorial.

Thanks for watching!

Hey Southern California…

Saturday January 21, 2017 California Pilates Center, Oceanside, CA

Join me for a day of guest teaching. Just one spot open for a private lesson, they filled up fast –  use this link to snag it for yourself! Register for my 10am Mat class here.

Saturday March 4, 2017 Studio Flo Pilates, San Diego, CA

Join me for an awesome Pilates Mat class. Clients and instructors are welcome. Register here.

Saturday April 15, 2017 Studio Flo Pilates, San Diego, CA

I hope you'll join me for a workshop based on my most popular post,  On the Order of the Reformer Exercises presented for the first time in San Diego! Register here or contact Jennie Groom for more information.

Wanna experience the blog live and in person?

Here’s a bit of what’s cooking for 2017:

Thursday – Sunday May 11-14, 2017 Equinox, London UK

Contact Jayne O’Brien for more info and to register.

Friday – Sunday September 22-24, 2017 Pilates Mödling, Mödling, Vienna 

Join me in Mödling just 20 minutes from the capital city of Vienna. This event is jam packed and not to be missed! I’ll be offering lessons, mat classes and workshops. Workshops include: The Teaser: The Truth will PrevailOn the Order of the Pilates Mat Exercises and 3 Chairs + 3 Barrels = 2-way Stretch and On the Order of the Pilates Reformer Exercises.

Contact Andrea Seipel for more info and to register.

Saturday + Sunday October 7-8 2017 Everybody Pilates, Portsmouth UK

Contact Amy Kellow for more information.