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Back to Basics - Lateral Breathing

NOTE - If you prefer, I have a YouTube video where I explain how to master lateral breathing.

Once you have found neutral spine, you've set your body up with great alignment and are centered, then you are ready to concentrate on your breathing. But don't worry if it all gets too confusing, it will take time for it all to come naturally.

Breathing correctly is one of the six Principles of Pilates, so it's important that we try and master it. However, if you struggle with getting your head around the breathing method, all I want you to do initially is to breathe, holding your breath whilst exercising is a definite no no. Trying to fathom a new breathing method, alongside learning new Pilates moves and centering can be really confusing, so if it all gets too much, don't worry, with a great instructor, it will come, I promise.

Why use Lateral Breathing?

~ When we breathe into the rib cage, expanding the ribs, rather than into the belly, this helps us to maintain centering and helps us to keep the muscles around our core activated. When you belly breathe, this tends to relax the abdominal area, which is not what we want in Pilates. We need to stay centered.

~ The pelvic floor is easier to activate when we use this breathing method. And as I've mentioned before, once the pelvic floor is contracted, this helps with the co activation of the transversus abdominus and other deep core muscles. Also as you both inhale and exhale using lateral breathing, transversus abdominus and the obliques naturally contract, helping to protect the spine.

~ Shallow breathing in the chest can cause neck and shoulder muscles to tense, so we avoid this type of breathing.

How to do it

Standing tall or laying down on your back, knees bent. Take a moment to make sure you are have neutral spine, you are centered, your pelvic floor is engaged, everything is aligned, your shoulders have been popped back into their pockets and your spine in lengthened; think about the golden thread we talked about in Back to Basics - Perfect Posture

  • Place your hands lightly around the rib cage.

  • Close your eyes and breathe in through the nose.

  • Feel your hands move outwards as the air flows into the rib cage, expanding the ribs outward

  • Breathe out through the mouth slowly, whilst keeping your pelvic floor engaged and your abdominals contracted to 30%

Try to not...

  • Let the abdominals pop out on the out breath

  • Let the ribs flare out on the in breath

  • Hunch the shoulders

Practise this a few times until you feel confident. When you do Pilates exercises, think about breathing out on the effort and don't worry, with patience and practise you will soon be an expert at this breathing method.

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