Sports & Wellness

Pilates simple breathing exercises for mindfulness

20 Dec 2022

The world beneath your skin is home to an invisible highway. One hundred thousand kilometres of veins ferry oxygen from the heart to your muscles and organs and back again. When you breathe, you are giving every system in your body the fuel it needs to function at its peak. 

Is there a correct way to breathe to ensure your body reaches its highest potential? Pilates practitioners think so. When you engage in pilates for beginners, one of your first lessons will involve special breathing techniques.

When you think of pilates, we'll bet you imagine lithe dancers stretching their muscles or a variation on yoga. The truth is that pilates is so much more than stretching and poses. You'll learn how to breathe in a mindful way that can reduce anxiety and boost your enjoyment of the world around you. 

Are you curious about the benefits of pilates breathing exercises? We've created this guide to help teach you a few simple pilates mindfulness techniques to help you decide if this practice is for you.

Take a deep breath and read on to learn about the types of breathing involved in pilates. 

What Is Pilates?

Breathing exercise

Pilates involves six principles: flow, precision, control, concentration, centreing, and breathing. You participate by engaging in a series of repetitive exercises, often while sitting on the ground. The exercises may involve all six principles, or focus on one at a time, ranging from stretches to meditation. 

The goal of yoga is to improve the practitioner's overall physical health. There is an emphasis on building core strength. In turn, this improves posture, flexibility, and balance. Many athletes and dancers use pilates to stay in shape. 

You cannot achieve peak fitness without focusing on your muscles. Your muscles need a great deal of oxygen to function at their best. When you learn to breathe more efficiently, your entire body can work more efficiently, improving focus and concentration.

Pilates, Lateral Breathing, and Mindfulness 

An essential facet of pilates breathing practice is lateral breathing. Lateral means "to the side." As you take in a breath, you'll learn to redirect it to your back and ribcage.

In pilates, your breath is often coordinated with your movement. It requires thought and focus to execute correctly. Many new participants remark that they didn't realize it took so much thought to breathe! 

Focusing on coordinating your breath is a form of mindfulness. Mindfulness is the practice of dedicated awareness. When you pay attention to the sensations and functions of your body and the environment, you gain an appreciation for their role in your well-being. 

Breathing Exercises for Beginners 

When you practice lateral breathing, you improve your lung capacity over time. Every new practitioner begins with a few basic exercises, however. Here are some simple pilates breathing techniques to try if you're interested in exploring the benefits.

Basic Lateral Breathing

Begin by setting your hands on the sides of your ribcage. Take a deep breath through your nose. Concentrate on pushing the air out and back toward your ribs, with the goal of moving your hands.

Exhale through your mouth and feel your ribs contract. Your hands should move back to their original positions. 

Repeat this pattern until the expansion of your ribcage feels natural.

The Hundred

The Hundred is a common physical breathing warmup for pilates beginners.

You begin by laying on your back with your legs bent and feet on the ground. Instructors call this the "tabletop position." Hold your arms parallel to your body, hovering off the ground.

When you're ready, lift your head and shoulders upward as if doing a crunch. Aim to look at your belly button. Reach toward your toes, aiming to keep your trunk steady. 

Coordinate your arm movement with your breathing as you inhale on a count of five, then exhale on a count of five. You'll repeat this ten times, equaling one hundred conscious stretches toward your toes. 

Set Breathing Patterns

If you begin to practice pilates, you'll quickly learn that many exercises involve set breathing patterns. In other words, you'll need to inhale or exhale at a very specific point in the stretch. This can help prevent you from subconscious breath-holding, which deprives your muscles and makes even the most basic movements more difficult. 

You can practice this sort of mindful breathing when practising your everyday stretches. Sit with your legs in front of you. Inhale as you reach for your toes, then exhale as you return to sitting. 

Ensure you aren't holding your breath once you reach your toes. Continue inhaling slowly and steadily. 

Mindful Breathing

Pilates is inherently an athletic pursuit, but many participants choose pilates because they are seeking a way to achieve mindfulness. You might use the techniques you learn from pilates and apply them to stressful situations outside the training room. 

The key to mindfulness is focus. Shift your attention away from external stimuli and toward your breathing. Inhale laterally for three seconds, feel your ribcage inflate, hold it for two seconds, and then inhale until you're out of breath. Repeat the pattern until you feel calm and centred.

Give Pilates for Beginners a Try

Isn't it amazing that the ideal fuel for your body comes from the air? When you start practising pilates for beginners, you'll begin to recognize how your body and the natural world work together. It's a grounded, mindful practice you'll carry with you for life. 

Your journey to wellness begins when you connect with a Sportsession coach. Our passionate pilates professionals will start with the basics, helping you discover the power of your own breath. Browse our coaches to find the instructor that will transform the way you think about your body. 

Name your sporting or fitness goal - we'll help you smash it. Personal Training, Yoga, Pilates, HIIT, Boxing and SO MUCH MORE. With an irresistible 30% OFF your first session!


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