The use of Breath in the Pilates Method

Denise Small PT, DPT

The following series of Pilates blog posts will focus on the principles that define the Pilates method.  Joseph Pilates developed his methodology using eight basic movement principles: whole body movement, breathing, balanced muscle development, concentration, control, centering, precision, and rhythm.  Today’s blog will focus on the principle of Breathing.

pilatesBreathing is a natural phenomenon that is performed thousands of times a day. Our daily intake of oxygen and expulsion of carbon dioxide is needed to cleanse our blood, and maintain the functioning of our body systems.  That being said, there are different ways to manipulate one’s breath to help facilitate certain physiological functions. For example, there have been many BBPT blog posts about diaphragmatic breathing, where one breathes into their abdomen to get a stretch of both the diaphragm and the pelvic floor muscles. Well, Pilates had his own approach to breathing, which was a variation on Diaphragmatic breathing.  Pilates approach to breathing was aimed at getting maximal air intake and release to give the body, what he called, “an internal shower” to rid the body of “toxins”. Pilates focused specifically on lateral expansion of the diaphragm, whereas traditional diaphragmatic breathing focuses on the vertical expansion of the diaphragm. In order to achieve this, Pilates encouraged maintaining the engaged tone of the abdomen, while breathing into the front, sides, and back of the ribcage. See the image below for further explanation.

 

Pilates- Ribcage/ Chest breathing versus Belly/Diaphragmatic breathing

This is an overly simplified view of the actual mechanics. However, both versions are very important. With the ability to differentiate between ribcage and diaphragmatic breathing you can offer your diaphragm a 3-dimensional stretch and the ability to work on abdominal contraction as well as endurance. If you have any questions you can ask them in the comments section. Or come visit me at Beyond Basics for a Pilates Private session!

BBPT Health Tip: Diaphragmatic Breathing

just-breathe-in-cloudsFiona McMahon DPT, PT

WE LOVE DIAPHRAGMATIC BREATHING! We do, we really do and we hope you will too. What is diaphragmatic breathing you ask? Diaphragmatic breathing is a form of deep breathing where you breath deeply into your stomach. As you breath in, you will actually see your belly extend and get bigger, and as you breath out, your belly will return to it’s old spot. It’s not like our typical breathing patterns where we breath from the chest; it is a much more deep and deliberate breath.

Why We love Diaphragmatic Breathing

Diaphragmatic breathing accomplishes a lot in the body. First of all, it supplies the body with a large dose of oxygen, which is pretty obvious, but it is a much more robust breath than a simple chest breath.

Diaphragmatic breathing also works wonders on the tissues of both the abdomen and the pelvic floor. By taking a big diaphragmatic breath in, the diaphragm lowers and provides a gentle stretch to the tissues and organs of the belly as well as the pelvic floor. As you breath in you are actually providing a nice stretch to the pelvic floor.

Deep breaths can also calm down the nervous system and allow you to better relax. When you are more relaxed your body can attend to the day to day tasks such as digestion and healing. It really is amazing what some deep breaths can do.

How to breathe diaphragmatically

Start off by putting one hand on your chest, at about the area of your breastbone. Place the other hand on your stomach. You can do diaphragmatic breathing just about anywhere, so get in a position that is comfortable for you. Start by slowly breathing in. In order to tell if you are using your diaphragm, you should feel the hand on your stomach move more than the hand on your chest. As you breath in, bring your awareness to your ribs and feel them expand out to the side and back.  Finish by slowly breathing out. The out breather should be longer than the inhale. It is really that easy.

How does one actually use diaphragmatic breathing?

Really you can use it in anyway you need too. Some people find it tremendously helpful to do 10 diaphragmatic breaths every hour, while others employ deep breathing techniques in times of stress or pain. The important thing about diaphragmatic breathing, or any exercise for that matter is consistency. Try to at least get in 20 deep breaths a day.

A Diaphragmatic Breath of Fresh Air

By Riva Preil

The diaphragm is a cone-shaped muscle at the base of the rib cage and it is the primary respiratory muscle.  An essential component of any relaxation program is proper performance of diaphragmatic breathing.  This is an important technique to learn because it helps relax the autonomic nervous system. Proper performance of diaphragmatic breathing can help to quiet brain activity which results in relaxation of all the organs and muscles within the body. An up-regulated nervous system is associated with muscle guarding, tension, stress, and tightness.  The muscles are shouting loudly at high volumes, and this pattern can result in pain and discomfort.  However, diaphragmatic breathing alleviates the tension by “turning down the volume” of the system thereby creating a calming, soothing affect.
The proper way to perform diaphragmatic breathing is as follows:

  1. Lie on your back or recline in a chair in a relaxed position. Place your hands atop the lower portion of your rib cage.
  2. Relax your jaw by placing your tongue on the roof of your mouth and keep your teeth slightly apart.
  3. Inhale slowly through your nose for a count of five seconds.  Allow your widening of the rib cage and expansion/rising of the abdomen.  Keep your upper chest, neck, and shoulders relaxed.
  4. Exhale slowly through your mouth for a count of five seconds.  Allow your ribs to collapse inward and your abdomen to fall (return to starting position).
  5. Repeat this 10x every night prior to going to sleep or at any time during the day when you experience stress or tension.

Now doesn’t that feel AMAZING? Enjoy your calm and relaxed state of being!