How to Know When to Inhale & Exhale in Pilates

Your breath complements movement in Pilates.
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If you want a lean body and muscle without bulk, Pilates is the exercise method for you. In Pilates, you perform small movements that work deep muscles to streamline your body. Pilates exercises strengthen the musculature surrounding the low back and joints, helping prevent injury. Pilates also focuses on breathing, and by using proper breathing technique, you can eliminate stress more easily.

Lateral Breathing

Pilates exercises require engagement of the deep abdominal muscles. If you keep these muscles contracted and take a deep breath, there is nowhere for the air to go but to the sides. The Pilates method of breathing is called lateral, or ribcage, breathing, and it involves inhaling wide into your ribcage, expanding it sideways. Exhaling further engages your abdominal muscles as you squeeze out all the air. Most people breathe shallowly, inhaling into the uppermost part of the chest. This doesn't allow for ideal oxygen exchange, and overall builds stress in the body.

Exhale During Spinal Flexion

In Pilates, all movements are accompanied by a breath pattern. The easiest pattern to remember is to exhale when your spine flexes, or rounds forward, since the exhale helps to engage your abdominal muscles. You should also exhale during other times you need a strong abdominal contraction, such as when you move your arms and legs away from the body in an exercise such as the double leg stretch.

Inhale During Spinal Extension

The basic rule for inhalation in Pilates is to do so when you extend your spine, or arch your back. The inhalation helps expand your chest when it's more open. When you inhale, take the air in through your nose, and exhale through your mouth. A general rule to follow in some Pilates exercises is the principle of "exhale on the effort."

Don't Get Confused

If all else fails, keep on breathing. Holding your breath during Pilates is more stressful on the body than reversing the breath pattern. Breathe laterally with a light contraction of your deep abdominal muscles, keeping your shoulders and upper body relaxed.

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