The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of breath and proper breathing techniques. Breathing is intrinsically tied to all movement, so being able to do so correctly is paramount. Still, most people don’t realize they aren’t breathing correctly. Their breaths are shallow and restrictive, with all the work happening in the chest rather than the diaphragm and other core muscles.
As Pilates teachers, one of the first lessons we provide our clients is on proper breathing techniques. Beyond being a core component of all Pilates teachings, proper breathing is revitalizing and empowering. Our deeper understanding of breath and breathing allows us to help our clients adjust the way they breathe, thus enriching their training experience and overall quality of life. Here’s what you need to know about applying the most fundamental Pilates practice for clients with varying needs and experience levels.
Pilates Breathing Techniques Benefits for Chronically Ill Clients
Pilates is incredibly effective for clients dealing with chronic health conditions. Because Pilates is a highly efficient fitness method that uses precise, intentional movement, it offers an ideal means of regaining strength and improving overall physical wellness. Where chronic illness may limit capacity for exercise, Pilates can be easily modified to meet the needs of anyone. Specifically, learning Pilates breathing techniques can improve the quality of life for chronically ill clients experiencing:
- High blood pressure
- Shortness of breath
- Chronic pain
- Digestive issues
- Low tolerance of physical activity
- Muscle weakness
- Joint stiffness or pain
- Anxiety and/or panic disorders
For clients recovering from COVID-19, certain cancers, or other long-term illnesses that can impact lung function, Pilates breathing techniques can bring much-needed relief. By learning how to use core muscles and correct posture to support breath, your clients can improve their lung capacity and increase vital blood-oxygen levels. This in turn reduces blood pressure and heart rates and supports immune system health. Pilates breathing techniques also support strength and endurance restoration over time.
Universal Benefits of Pilates Breathing Techniques
The benefits of Pilates breathing techniques and other principles are not limited to the chronically ill. People of all ages, backgrounds, and levels of fitness use Pilates because it is such an effective way to improve and support total body wellness.
Pilates breathing techniques have been shown to reduce stress, provide mental clarity, and help improve moods. Proper breathing may also help prevent injury due to muscle strains or improper form. By syncing movements to the breath, Pilates promotes fluidity and flow rather than rigid, jerking motions that are the primary cause of injury in other forms of exercise.
Incorporating More Breathwork into Your Pilates Practice
There are two primary breathing methods you can use to help your clients train their breath:
- Diaphragmatic – which fully engages the core with each breath. This method draws air fully into the body, allowing the belly to completely expand on each inhale and deflate on each exhale. These deep breaths fully oxygenate the body, promoting relaxation and regulating the nervous system.
- Lateral – which focuses on training specific core muscle groups. This method primarily engages the muscles of the back and rib cage to draw in and exhale full breaths without the lower abdominals. Lateral breathing is typically used when performing moves that target the lower abdomen like The Hundred or leg lifts.
Breathwork is a great way to start and end any Pilates session because it allows time to really connect with the body and be present in the moment. Breathing exercises as a warm-up help to wake up the core muscles and prepare the body for proper breath support throughout the workout. As a wind-down post-exercise, breathwork aids in recovery relaxation, bringing the body back to its homeostatic base.
What is the most effective way you’ve found to help your clients master Pilates breathing techniques? Let us know in The Alliance, the PMA’s member-only community forum! Log-in here!