Breathing Cues and Why They Matter

If you’re a Pilates regular, you probably hear breathing cues in your dreams. The usual, “inhale, exhale,” “control your breath.” You’ve probably also heard that proper breathing is important. But do you know why? Let’s talk about it! 

Photograph: Wanda Koch
  1. Mind Body Connection

First, correct Pilates breathing enhances the connection between your muscles and mind. Controlled, focused breathing helps us connect with our bodies as we flow through each position, mentally attuning us to the motion of our joints. It’s meditative, it makes us think about how we’re moving, which strengthens  the mind- body connection. And a strong mind-body connection improves posture, prevents injury,  increases mobility, and much more!

  1. More Oxygen= Better Workouts

Next, breathing is crucial to staying alive! Joseph Pilates even said, “breathing is the first and last act of life.” It delivers essential oxygen to every part of the body and removes built up toxins. This is especially important  during exercise when our bodies are expending oxygen at an increased rate. The controlled, deep breathing of Pilates makes it easier to not get stuck in a rhythm of quick, shallow breaths, but instead encourages us to focus on bringing deep, oxygen rich inhales to our muscles. This allows our muscles to stay alert and not get flooded with cramp causing lactic acid.

  1. Core Strength

Last but not least, when we breathe, our diaphragm contracts and expands which displaces the abdominal muscles. If our abdominal muscles are being pushed and pulled with our inhales and exhales, it makes it impossible to keep the core engaged. Pilates breathing encourages us to push our breath up through the ribcage, instead of the belly (or abs). By engaging the intercostal muscles (rib cage), the abs are able to stay active while moving through each exercise. It’s safer and it keeps our trunks steady. This helps prevent injury while strengthening the core.

Proper breathing conditions our minds to listen to our bodies as we flow through each movement while maintaining a steady, functional oxygen intake. Being mindful about engaging the intercostal muscles instead of the abdominals allows our cores to stay activated and balanced. So listen to your Pilates instructors! These cues aren’t just about reminding you to breathe, they’re here to help add structure and safety to your workouts.