Why Pilates Programs Focus on Breath Control and Technique
In his book Return to Life Through Contrology, (Presentation Dynamics, 1998) Joseph Pilates writes, “Since we cannot live without breathing it is tragically deplorable to contemplate the millions and millions who have never learned to master the art of correct breathing.” Indeed, many of people do not know how to breathe effectively. They perform shallow breaths that are inefficient, making their bodies work hard to get necessary oxygen. Pilates instructors focus on effective breathing technique because mastering breathing results in decreased stress, enhanced focus and concentration, improved performance, strong respiratory muscles, and increased oxygen flow to muscles.
Pilates Workouts Begin with a Focus on Breathing
Pilates instructors begin workouts with a focus on breathing because it provides a basis for performing each exercise properly. Beginning a Pilates program with breathing immediately yields enhanced awareness, focus, and concentration. It relaxes participants, releasing unnecessary tension that gets in the way of exercise. The breath pattern also enables exercisers to engage the deep stabilizing muscles in the core. Exhaling deeply engages the transversus abdominis, the deep abdominal stabilizer. It also helps exercisers engage the obliques, the multifidus, and the pelvic muscles.
It is Important to Strengthen Breathing Muscles
In February, ACE Certified News published an article by Carrie Myers titled, “Want to Improve Your Performance? Breathe!” Here, Myers exposes the importance of training the breathing muscles. Just like any other muscles, neglecting them leads to atrophy and poor performance. “In the same way that a stronger heart can push out more blood with each pump and as a result doesn’t have to beat as often,” she writes, “a stronger diaphragm and intercostals mean you can slow your breathing rate down and even get more oxygen to your muscles.”
Myers points out that as people age, their breathing tends to move higher and higher up into their chest cavities. The result is shallow breathing, a sort of “sipping,” rather than a deep inhalation, of air. Focusing on training the deep breathing muscles, then, is important. Pilates programs focus on engaging the diaphragm and intercostals, teaching exercisers to breathe deeply and effectively. This, of course, is a benefit enjoyed constantly, not just during exercise.
The Pilates Method Focuses on Breath Control
Joseph Pilates focused on Pilates as an integral part of his method, and well trained Pilates instructors will focus on breathing as well. This focus has many benefits. Effective breathing will enhance performance because it helps exercisers focus and relax. It helps them engage the stabilizing muscles needed to support movement. But a focus on breathing is also important because it trains the breathing muscles. This allows for better oxygenation of the blood and more effective use of the very muscles that help people breathe.