“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.
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About The Author
Fitness has always been a guiding force for Kathy Lopez, owner of Studio Be. Her inherent drive for health has naturally translated into helping others achieve strength, balance and wellness. Kathy has been voted Ventura's best Pilates instructor nine years in a row. Learn more...