Does it really matter how you breathe when you are performing Pilates movements? If you want to get the most out of your physical fitness efforts, then yes, it does.
When you work out aerobically, as in when you go for a run or take a swim, proper breathing patterns ensure that your muscles receive enough oxygen to contract correctly. This improves your circulation and helps you develop more lean muscle mass.
But relatively new research conducted at the University of Mexico shows the importance of proper breathing techniques during non-aerobic forms of exercise as well. These include Pilates, yoga and tai chi, just to name a few.
Here is exactly what happens, and why breathing is so important during Pilates.
Breathing and Lactic Acid Buildup
The part of your brain which controls your respiratory system automatically sends millions of messages a day that tell you when to breathe. This does not matter if you are watching TV, running, lifting weights or sitting through a boring meeting at work.
Researchers at the University of Mexico found that when you exercise, your brain becomes extra-aware of the lactic acid and carbon dioxide which is increased anytime you exercise your muscles.
It then sends a high alert message to your respiratory system which gets you breathing deeper and faster.
This is so you can increase the amount of oxygen that is pushed throughout your body to displace that extra carbon dioxide. That is why you start huffing and puffing when you perform Pilates, yoga or exert yourself in any other way.
Even though that research on the importance of breathing and exercise is recently new, the German-born founder of Pilates understood this when he developed his physical fitness system in the 1920s and 30s. Joseph Pilates devotes an entire section in his famous “Return to Life” on the importance of breathing when you practice Pilates.
Calling it one of the most important principles of his exercise method, he referred to breathing as a “bodily house-cleaning with blood circulation”.
He recommended proper full inhalation and forced exhalation. In other words, deep breathing.
He talked about squeezing out your lungs as you would ring out a wet towel.
Breathe out with your effort and in on the return. Not only will you feel more invigorated, but as your muscles repair, they will be stronger and healthier than if you breathed incorrectly.
Whether performing Pilates at home or during a class with others, learning to breathe properly is important.
You will get the maximum results from your efforts, enjoying the benefits of what Joseph Pilates called one of the important cornerstones of a lifetime of physical fitness when you exercise.
Photo: Mario Castillo’s “The Ancient Memories of the Mayahuel’s People Still Breathe” taken by flickr user Richie Diesterheft