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A Question about Breathing

Posted Mar 16 2011 1:24pm

Breathing Question
Hi Lesley,

I have a question about breathing in Pilates. I have found in my teaching that many students breath ‘loud’ and seem to associate a loud breath with a deep breath. But I don’t find that to be the case in my own breathing and in observing clients. It seems to me that the noise in their breathing can be coming from some sort of tightening of the throat, mouth, lips etc. So when I hear this I usually cue them to relax their breath, throat, mouth and visual a deep quiet breath that is connected to their abdominals. Often then I see better sinking of the abdominals and an overall relaxation of tensed muscles. Would love to know what you think or have seen with clients.


There are many ways of breathing.  Sometimes sound can tell you about the quality of breath.  A shallow breath will be more in the throat.  A deep breath brings a different resonance.  That is what actors and singers try to achieve.  Sometimes sound can get a client aware of breath.  For others, breath can create tension in trying to achieve it and not feel it.  In traditional Pilates there is a forceful breath which is great for fast forceful movements.  Look at Karate and there is a clear reason to make the holler with a kick.  It mobilizes your strengthen.

With the new information about how the diaphragm and the pelvic floor,  my practice with myself and clients, is a much slower and softer breath.  To get to the deep transverse abdominals, I sometimes have clients count out loud on the exhale to a least 8 and the goal is more.  I hear how they phrase the breath.  Is graceful like an adagio or punchy like a march?  I find a fast punchy breath that most clients harden the superficial abs without getting the hollowing of the transverse.

I always use Breath especially in the beginning of a session.  I find that it centers clients to better concentration and better use of abs.  With some client whose breath patterns are poor, I might move away from breath.  I once took some classes on breath, the Middendorf Technique.   There were exercises of breath to improve breath; then movements to improve how one breathes.

Kathy Grant at a PMA conference had people spell out their names or telephone numbers to make sure that they are breathing. In yoga, you have the “OM”.  Irmagard Bartenieff had used the vowel sounds to get people conscious of breath.  Different sounds, letters and words invite different kinds of breath.

The best breath is laughter.

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