We Huff and Puff and Blow the House Down

Don’t be afraid to PUFF it out and make noise in a Pilates class

It all starts with Pilates breathing...

I used to take breathing for granted.  I mean, breathe in, and then let the air out. It’s not a big deal. I’ve been doing it since birth. I like to think I had it mastered.  Then I took a Pilates class where my instructor kept telling me, not only WHEN to breathe, but HOW to breathe. 

There are two main ways in which people breathe….into the top of the chest, which signifies being tense and prone to anxiety.  When one breathes into the intercostal muscles rather than through the rib cage, not enough oxygen is getting pulled throughout the body. 

The opposite is deep belly breathing which has been proven to cause relaxing of the body.  The only problem with that is that it isn’t super helpful when you are exercising and NOT trying to relax.  Also, some people find themselves getting light-headed if they belly breathe for too long.

When you take a Pilates class, breathing is the first concept that is taught. Breathe in through the nose and feel your lungs expand up and out to the sides of your ribcage.  Fill up your lungs so much that you even feel pressure in the upper back.  Then press your air out through pursed lips like you are blowing out a candle.  I bet you are doing that right now. Did you feel your abs contract as you pressed the air out? If you didn’t, push more air out this time. Like you are getting to the very last candle on a cake, but you can’t take another breath in or everyone will say you cheated. Here is a way to test your breathing.  Put your thumbs on the bottom of ribs and your pointer finger on the top of your hip bone.  When you are blowing all the air out, the space between your rib and hip bone should get about an inch or so smaller. You can also think about also sinking your belly button inward while doing a small Kegel squeeze.   

If you do this breathing long enough, you will actually get an ab workout.  I find myself practicing my Pilates breathing when I’m running.  I practice when I’m driving.  Then I find myself doing it when I revert back to my shallow breathing and need some help relaxing some of the tension out of my shoulders. 

This form of Pilates breathing is making you aware of your core, and that’s what we all want to work on, right?  We have a goal to plank for hours!  What I have found is that when I exhale at the right time during a Pilates move, my muscles work together in the right way.  Contracting my muscles while I execute a strong exhale through the abs helps me to control the movement. It keeps my form, my posture, and my spine in perfect alignment. I feel stronger when I use my breath to help my movement. It is a feeling of being complete within yourself.  

So, don’t discount that breathing in your next Pilates class. Think of forcing that air out and make some noise. I will be huffing and puffing alongside you.