As Pilates teachers, one of the most common questions we get is “Is there a right way to
The answer? It depends on what you’re doing. There are numerous breathing techniques and each of them can be beneficial when applied in the right time and place.
This post will break down some common breathing techniques you might see in your Pilates
session and explain why you might want to choose one breathing strategy over another.
1. Diaphragmatic breathing
Diaphragmatic breathing takes place when upon inhalation, you breathe into your abdomen
and the front of the body and upon exhalation, you let your abdominals contract naturally.
While this type of breathing wouldn’t be ideal for a challenging core exercise, you can use it to promote relaxation and help create mental focus. It also helps you establish a natural and
easeful core contraction, during exercises like footwork, where your spine needs minimal
In Pilates, you’re most likely to see this style of breathing at the beginning of a session to create focus or at the end of a session to relax your body, before you go about the rest of your day. This is also the type of breath you should consider cultivating during your daily life.
3. Lateral breathing
Lateral breathing involves breathing into the sides and back of your lungs, while maintaining an abdominal contraction. With this breath, as you exhale, you narrow the ribs and contract the abdominals more deeply.
Unlike diaphragmatic breathing, you wouldn’t want to walk around in normal life breathing this way. However, this type of breath is particularly helpful when you need the strength of your abs to support your back, which is to say that in Pilates, we use this breath a lot!
This type of breath can also be used to help release the back of the ribs (e.g when you’re curled forward) and to energize the body. Also, it’s great for pregnancy when the abdomen is a little full and may have difficulty expanding with breath.
A few exercises where you might want to use lateral breathing include the hundred, series of five and the roll up.
4. One lung breathing
One lung breathing takes place when you think about sending the air into just one side of the ribcage. It can help you going into a side bending movements. Additionally, it can be used to increase the expansion of the lungs and release tension about the rib cage.
While you can use one lunge breathing as a gentle awareness exercise when lying on your back or seated, it’s easiest to find and feel when doing a movement involving side bending like mermaid on the reformer.
As you can see, there is some crossover in how these different styles of breath can be used, so ultimately it’s beneficial to explore your options and see what works best for you for the exercise you’re doing.