the art of breathing in pilates

December 4, 2012

Expert Q&A with Sian Collins from The Hundred Pilates Studio in Dubai: The Proper Pilates Breathing Method

In essence, breathing is the movement of air in and out of the lungs and such a fundamental part of everything we do. Breathing can be controlled both consciously and unconsciously. Most of the times in exercise our breathing is conscious.  In Pilates we talk about diaphragmatic , abdominal , belly, lateral or deep breathing.The Pilates method teaches us to breathe fully and use each breath cycle to aid in the movement we require and demand from  the body. When breathing in we get the fresh or “good ” air in and on the exhale we expel or rid the body of all the “bad” air.

Just like how the the wind on a sail moves the yacht so the breath moves the body and without the breathe one cannot move efficiently . Stress, pain, asthma, high blood pressure, headaches, depression, anxiety as well as other conditions have been shown to be reduced and prevented due to deep breathing techniques.

When teaching an individual the Pilates breathe,  I often use tools such as a theraband around the rib age or get them to feel it with their very own hands wrapped around this area.  I often find individuals are not aware of their breathing and it takes time to re- educate  and retrain the mind and body.

Most individuals are extremely tight into the diaphragm area and  the mid thoracic area and therefore this can inhibit the full breathe. By breathing into those tight areas through movement we can benefit and free the body of tension. There are many reasons that these areas tighten such as  stress, over active and a dominant rectus abdominal muscle, generally poor postural and daily habits therefore causing more negative and compensatory patterns.

In Pilates you should not force the breathe, let it be natural and relaxed.

Focus on the breath as it comes in through the nostrils expanding and filling the lungs and exhaling out through the mouth in a movement fluid-like and effortless.  There should be emphasis on the importance of expelling every last bit of air to rid the body and free it of all the toxins. The most  important aspect is to just relax never stop moving the body, free the mind and of course to just Breathe efficiently no matter what!

Try this breathing exercise at home (and you’ll feel lighter!):

You can practice this method sitting, standing or lying, with your pelvis in neutral and your spine lengthened.

  • Wrap something around your ribcage (i.e. a scarf).
  • Cross the ends over at the front and pull a little on them to feel where you are working.
  • Take a deep lateral breath (into the scarf) – directing the breath into your sides and back.
  • Keep the shoulders down and relaxed and the neck long while you take the breaths. The ribs should expand as you inhale and close down as you exhale.
  • Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth – imagine you are releasing the air by blowing gently through a wide straw.

Continue to breathe gently approximately 5 or 6 times but do not over-breathe (or you may feel dizzy). Do not try more than six at one time. Breathe softly in a relaxed way.

Article provided by Sian Collins – BASI Certified Pilates Teacher BA (Hons) HMS in Biokinetics, teaches private and Beginner’s Group Mat, Circuit and Reformer classes at

Sian Collins – Biokinetics & BASI Certified