“Above all learn to breathe” – Joe Pilates.
For those who are just beginning to explore and practice the Pilates method, it often comes as a surprise how much emphasis is put on the act of breathing. We all breathe, all day long, every second… so we typically don’t give it much thought.
Joe Pilates, the creator of the Pilates method, stressed the importance of inhaling fresh air and exhaling stale air. He believed proper breathing promotes a path towards “total health.”
The History Behind Pilates Breath
Joe Pilates was born in Dusseldorf, Germany in 1883. He was a small, weak child who suffered from asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever, a disease that affects the heart, joints, brain and skin.
His father was a prize-winning gymnast and his mother was a naturopath, so when a family physician gave him an old anatomy book, his fascination with the human body came quite naturally. He memorized every page and every muscle, learning how each one functioned and moved. Later he studied both Eastern and Western forms of exercise, including yoga. By the time he was 14, he had worked so hard developing his body that he was modeling for anatomy charts.
The Pilates method sprang from Joe Pilates’ determination to strengthen his own frail and sickly body. And he learned at a young age the importance of proper breathing, which is why it’s part of the very foundation of his practice.
What Is Pilates Breathing?
The human body needs ample amounts of oxygen to function at optimal performance, and the lungs are responsible for feeding that oxygen to the body’s cells through the bloodstream. By employing full inhalations and full exhalations, you expel stale air and noxious gases from the depths of your lungs, replenishing your body with fresh air to energize and revitalize your system. The Pilates method is built around cleansing the bloodstream through oxygenation.
Joe Pilates believed that proper breathing helps control your movements both during the Pilates exercises and in daily life. It gives you more stamina, allows for better concentration and makes you feel more alive and alert.
When we talk about breathing in Pilates, we mean effective, conscious breathing that expands your lungs fully with each inhalation. Over time, ineffective or “lazy” breathing can overwork the more flexible parts of your lungs and allow other areas to grow continually stiffer and tighter.
On the contrary, deep and uniform breathing leads to uniform development, allowing you to find the unexpanded areas of your lungs and teach them to stretch to full capacity.
Pilates “Rolling” Technique
Many Pilates exercises involve an action known as “rolling”. According to Joe Pilates, “It is this very action of rolling and unrolling that cleanses your lungs so effectively by driving out the impure air and forcing in the pure air.” (Return to Life Through Contrology).
Joe Pilates believed the concept of cleansing the lungs by rolling the spine so important that he created a multitude of exercises incorporating this spinal massage movement.
When you roll forward your body’s action helps push all the air out of your lungs, and when you roll backward, your lungs naturally expand to fill again with fresh, pure air.
How To Practice Pilates Breathing At Home
Ready to practice Pilates breathing in your daily life? Try this exercise anywhere!
This book is also a great resource for learning about the importance of breathing and how to do it correctly in order to jump-start athletic performance, rejuvenate internal organs, halt snoring, asthma and autoimmune disease—the health benefits are endless.
New to Pilates or Studio Be? Come take a class with us and experience the benefits of Pilates breathing. Click here to check out our special offers!
If you’ve been to a Pilates studio, you’ve likely been introduced to a wide range of equipment, also known as the Pilates apparatus. Or maybe you’ve peaked into your local studio or seen Pilates performed on TV and have been wondering about all of those “crazy-looking” contraptions.
Pilates is a system of exercise that combines both Mat-work and apparatus-based exercises. These pieces of apparatus can seem intimidating at first, but once you understand the purpose and proper technique, they can be life-changing.
Below, I explain the three main types of Pilates apparatus, as well as Mat Pilates and why we still need it to complete the Pilates practice.
Aside from the Mat, the Reformer is probably the most widely known piece of Pilates apparatus. The Reformer’s unique combination of springs, pulleys, straps and sliding carriage make it an incredibly versatile piece of equipment. Joe Pilates, the creator of the Pilates method, was way ahead of his time when he invented this apparatus we still use today.
Like most Pilates equipment, the Reformer differs from traditional fitness equipment in very fundamental ways. Rather than using an isolated set of muscles to move an external force, such as how weight training machines work, you use your “Powerhouse” (core muscles) to lift and pull your body’s weight along with the Reformer’s spring-loaded carriage. This action automatically centers you and helps develop balance, coordination, as well as body and space awareness. At the same time, it strengthens and stretches your entire body, not just any one isolated set of muscles.
When Joe Pilates developed a series of exercises for the Reformer, he intended for them to be performed in a specific sequence and manner, resulting in a series of constant, flowing movements. This is done while inhaling and exhaling for 30 to 60 minutes during the nonstop workout.
Each Reformer exercise prepares your mind and body for the next one—warming your muscles, awakening your mind and body, stimulating your organs, coordinating your breathing and training your muscles to “fire” in the correct sequence to give you the maximum fitness benefits from the exercise movements. I love this workout and how it feels.
The Tower is an adaptation of The Cadillac (also known as a Trapeze Table). It is a Pilates apparatus that is attached to the Reformer, but offers a more stable surface to work from.
Unlike the Reformer, which slides back and forth, the Tower remains stationary and is positioned on an integrated Mat. The client can hold on to the handles or the grab bar that is attached to springs of varying tension. To work the lower body, they can put their feet inside of the loops that attach to the springs.
For some, the stable base of the Tower can make it less intimidating than the Reformer with all of its moving parts. That’s why this apparatus is ideal for beginning clients, or those recovering from injuries. Additionally, there is very little pressure on the joints because your body weight is supported by the Mat portion of the apparatus.
Ultimately, there’s an unlimited number of possibilities with the Tower that incorporate basic Mat exercises, ranging from gentle to the most extreme depending upon your needs and abilities. At Studio Be, the Tower Class is a signature class because it’s one of the best ways to utilize springs for a deeper stretch with resistance training, allowing for a full-body workout.
The Wunda Chair
In the Pilates system there are two main types of chairs: the Wunda Chair (also known as the “Low” chair) and the High chair. The main difference between the two is the High Chair has a back and two handles that rise on either side and the Wunda chair does not. The Wunda chair has simplistic design, consisting of a box with a padded top and a pedal on one side that moves against the resistance of springs anchored to the opposite side of the chair. We typically use the Wunda Chair for group classes at Studio Be.
Joe Pilates would perform over 50 exercises on the Wunda Chair. You can sit, kneel, lie or stand on, in front of or behind the chair, face toward or away from it—even sideways—as you move the spring-loaded bar.
The chair’s versatile design enables users to get amazing results, from beginners and injured clients to the most advanced students challenging themselves with pushups, backbends and pull-ups.
Pilates Mat work is a system of exercises that happen in a very specific order, performed on—you guessed it—a Mat. Joe Pilates created the Mat-based exercises before he created the Pilates apparatus. His Mat work complements the apparatus exercises, and vice versa.
Although born in a different era, Joe Pilates understood the physical and mental pressures of a busy schedule. He believed his Pilates method would propel people to become more productive both physically and mentally. For this reason, Pilates Mat work is designed to fit into the time constraints of each individual without diminishing its comprehensive elements—Mat exercises can be performed anytime, anywhere.
Getting Started With Pilates
Ultimately, Joe Pilates taught the importance to train on all types of Pilates apparatus to gain a deeper understanding of the Pilates method. He taught that practicing Pilates is a balancing act between body and mind, therefore he coined his method “Contrology”—meaning pure control of the mind and body.
Are you ready to take back control? The best way to get started is taking a private class to learn the proper movements and techniques. For a limited time, we’re offering a series of three private sessions for only $225 to help you get started.
Click here to claim your private sessions.
If you’ve been around the fitness world, you’ve likely heard of Pilates. Or maybe you’ve heard that your favorite celebrity is doing Pilates and the practice has “changed their life.” But why Pilates, over all of the other exercise and fitness methods out there?
Before we dive into why people choose Pilates (keep scrolling if you can’t wait), it’s important to understand exactly what Pilates is all about.
Let’s get down to it…
What Is Pilates, Exactly?
Developed by Joe Pilates in the early 20th century, Pilates is a unique, systematic and integrative approach to body conditioning—utilizing body weight and springs for resistance training to strengthen, stretch and realign. It’s a compressive program that progresses a person from simple fundamental movements to very advanced skills on multiple Pilates apparatuses. (Yes, I’m talking about those crazy-looking contraptions you’ve seen when you’ve peaked into your local Pilates studio, and they all serve a purpose.)
Pilates brings a myriad of benefits for everyone, including the following improvements to your physical and mental condition:
One buzz word you might hear in Pilates is “Powerhouse.” This word was coined by Joe Pilates as the core muscles, which include, the hips, abdominals and upper shoulder girdle. When a person works from their “Powerhouse,” there are noticeable improvements in their posture, strength, stamina, flexibility, balance and an overall feeling of wellness. Regular practice is guaranteed to energize the body and sharpen the mind.
As a whole-body exercise—encompassing mind, body and spirit—Joe Pilates believed that the mind plays a vital role in body conditioning, so he designed the Pilates method around these six guiding principles:
Why Pilates Over Other Exercise Methods?
There are seemingly thousands of workouts, fitness trends and exercise methods to choose from. It can become overwhelming at times when you’re just trying to find the best way to improve your health and get moving.
So why choose Pilates?
I tell clients that practicing Pilates is like reading, learning and memorizing the owner’s manual of how to properly move your body. It’s therapeutic in a way that brings you back to balance, proper posture and grounds you in your center.
It’s a complete lifestyle, on-and-off the Mat (or apparatus).
There’s a reason professionals and performers—such as musicians, athletes, dancers, you name it—turn to Pilates as their exercise method of choice or add it to their fitness repertoire.
Pilates is incredibly athletic and advanced, and a lot of people don’t understand this until they’ve done it for years (and seen the results). This shouldn’t stop anyone from trying it out, though. Pilates is for everyone, and you can start at any point in your life. It’s all about learning the technique, first and foremost. We recommend starting out with a series of privates.
Not convinced yet? Read on for the many undeniable health benefits Pilates has to offer.
5 Health Benefits Of Pilates
1. Improves Flexibility & Elongates Muscles
Instead of holding static stretches, Pilates is all about movements that incorporate the resistance of springs to deepen the stretch and overall flexibility. This allows tight, short muscles to lengthen and grow stronger in their full extension.
2. Increases Stability & Balance
Stability and balance come from having a strong core, stable joints and flexibility. A regular Pilates routine helps develop a more stable and balanced body.
3. Promotes Better Posture
Pilates promotes better posture by helping to realign the body and spine. Sitting and standing with proper alignment keeps your spine healthy and strong. This is what we mean when we say Pilates isn’t just a type of workout, it’s a whole lifestyle. A regular Pilates routine spills into everyday life and promotes better habits when you’re sitting at work, driving your car, and so on.
4. Strengthens The “Powerhouse”
The core is the center of the body from which all movement stems. That being said, it’s important for people to realize that core is more than just the abdominal muscles. It’s the entire trunk, which also includes the hips, the inner and outer thighs and the back. When strengthened and pliable, these muscles support and stabilize the body. They’re also where all of your explosive movements come from (hence the name “Powerhouse”) and contribute to your overall stamina.
5. Improves Breathing
In the words of Joe Pilates, "Above all, learn how to breathe correctly." Breathing well nourishes every system of the body and allows the body to operate optimally—during Pilates class and long after you leave the studio. Proper breathing eases and releases tension in the body, leaving you feeling calm, less stressed and more energized.
Getting Started With Pilates
If you’re new to the Pilates world, the best way to get started is taking a private class to learn the proper movements and techniques.
For a limited time, we’re offering 3 private sessions for only $225. You don’t want to miss this—click here to learn more and claim your offer.
Hello, and welcome to The Studio Be Blog. My name is Kathy Lopez, owner of Studio Be. Many of you may know me already, but for those of you who are new around here, I thought I’d kick things off by introducing myself and telling you a little about my Pilates journey.
It all started in 2001 when a good friend and colleague invited me to a Pilates studio open house. When I walked in, the instructors were doing a short performance on the Wunda Chair—the most advanced apparatus Joe Pilates invented. The exercise was called “Going Up Front,” a vertical lunge up into the air with no handles to hold on to, and they all looked like graceful gymnasts. All I could think about was how fun it must be to work out like a performer. I was so bored with weight training at the time.
And I was hooked…
I went home that day and immediately investigated getting certified. I had no idea what I was getting into. In fact, I’d never done Pilates in my life. I ended up signing up on the spot because I was presented with the rare opportunity to study with Rael Isacowitz, the legendary founder and director of BASI Pilates International.
Since then, I have studied the work from many gifted teachers, attended workshops and conferences all around the U.S. I’ve met the elders who studied with Mr. Joe Pilates himself and their teachers and completed countless Pilates programs.
Looking back, I cannot tell you how grateful I am that I did not listen to the fearful little voice in my head. Pilates changed my life forever. It became my way of life. It’s my breath, mental focus and awareness. Pilates is the owner's manual of how to properly move your body with ease, grace and fluidity.
Over the last twenty years, I’ve built a community around this way of life at my studios in beautiful Ventura, California. I thought it was time to bring this community online.
With this blog, my hope is to not only be a resource for my current Studio Be community, but also for those who are seeking out a new way of life, or maybe just a new way to move their bodies.
If you’re already an avid Pilates person, this is a space for you. If you’re interested in getting to know what the Pilates method and lifestyle is all about, this is a space for you.
I hope the Studio Be blog is your one-stop-shop for…
About Studio Be
At Studio Be, we specialize in classical Pilates. While there are thousands of Pilates studios out there, what sets us apart comes down to one thing: experience. Our team of instructors are all highly trained and certified in the Pilates method, each having over twenty years of experience under their belt.
Our full-service studio in Ventura, California offers all the pieces of the Pilates apparatus, including the Reformer, Tower, Wunda Chair and, of course, the Mat. In addition to Pilates, we offer barre classes, yoga instruction and TRX training, which support and round out the Pilates practice. We also believe in the Melt Method for rehabilitation and therapeutic wellness.
When you walk into our studio, you can let go of the pressures of the world and focus on your wellbeing. Our motto? Be Strong. Be Flexible. Be Well.
Come Take A Private Class (Or 3) *Special Offer Alert*
We’re really glad you’re here. If you’re new to the Pilates world, the best way to get started is taking a private class to learn the proper movements. Or maybe you’ve been around a while and are looking to brush up on your technique.
For a limited time, we’re offering 3 private sessions for only $225. You don’t want to miss this—click here to learn more and claim your offer.