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Pilates Breathing (Lateral Thoracic Breathing)

Joseph Pilates, the founder of the Pilates Method was very much concerned with the breath. He encouraged his students to use the breath as fully as possible, expanding the breath into the back and expelling the air completely to support flowing movement. In Pilates, working with the breath links the physical exertion with attention of the mind — creating grace and flow in the movement, and providing a vehicle for centering the presence of the practitioner.

This takes advantage of every breath cycle to draw in lots of fresh air and get rid of every bit of stale air. We want to oxygenate our blood, get our circulation going, and get the rejuvenating qualities that a deep breath delivers.

There is a special breathing technique we use in Pilates that allows us to maintain a contraction of the abdominals throughout an exercise. It is called, lateral thoracic breathing.
In lateral breathing we breathe deeply, emphasizing expanding the breath into the back and sides of the ribcage.
When the abdominals are pulled in properly, they protect the spine and act like a supportive corset for the whole trunk. Knowing how to breathe well while keeping the abdominals contracted gives us extra support throughout an exercise. As you practice lateral breathing, you will find that you are able to perform Pilates exercises with greater ease. It helps make the scoop of abs easier and enhances the sense of lengthening the spine with the breath.

While lateral breathing is the technique to use when you want to keep your abdominals in during an inhale, we are talking about training the abdominals here. We don’t want to have our abdominals contracted all the time. Diaphragmatic breathing, with a natural extension of the belly on an inhale, is still the healthiest way to breathe regularly. Adding lateral breath to your diaphragmatic breathing will increase your overall breathing capacity.

Why Neutral Spine? What is it?

As a baby we are born with our spines shaped in a C-curve. As we grow and develop and begin to handle our own body weight the spine develops four natural curves. These four curves together form an S shape, a position that has become known as a “neutral spine”.
When the spine is in a natural S shape the weight of the body is supported more comfortably, movement is more fluid and wear and tear on the discs is minimized. The curves allow our bodies to absorb shock (similar to the way a spring acts as opposed to a rigid solid rod).
Our modern lifestyle often involves long periods of sitting, either at desks, in front of computer screens or slouching in front of the television. These kinds of activities encourage the spine to move out of its natural S shape which can lead to conditions such as lower back pain and round shoulders.
Pilates helps to re-align the spine back into its natural S shape. My goal is to educate everyone on how to maintain and support the integrity of these curves by strengthening the surrounding skeletal muscular systems and teaching clients better body awareness about their own individual postural idiosyncrasies.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post. Keep in touch on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram for updates and feel free to ask me any questions you may have.

Emma x

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PS – if you’re interested in learning all about how to healthily gain your desired physique and having a community to support you along the way check out my Vitality Nutrition & Wellness Coaching Online Group. It may be one of the best things you decide to do for your health this year.