How to Do Pilates Breathing Like a Pro

Whether you have aches + pains, are trying to recover from an injury, or just want to learn Pilates; start with Pilates breathing.

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I know what you’re thinking. Breathing? Like a pro?

But, the truth is that breathing is the foundation of Pilates. This means that everything you do is based on (and meant to accompany) your breath.

Pilates breathing is the very first Pilates exercise you should master, and it’s the most important. The Pilates breathing technique is so simple that absolutely anyone can do it and so effective that everyone can benefit from it.

Whether you’re trying to get rid of some aches + pains, are recovering from surgery, or just want to start learning Pilates; Pilates breathing is for you.

Here’s everything you need to know to practice Pilates breathing like a pro.

Related: If you’ve got muscle pain that you’re trying to relieve, download your free copy of The Secret to IMMEDIATE + LASTING Pain Relief today!

Before you get started…

Before you start learning how to practice Pilates breathing, I want to take a moment to let you know that Pilates breathing is an exercise.

It’s not meant to replace your normal, relaxed breath.

Instead, you should use this exercise when you’re doing Pilates, specifically working to relieve aches + pains, or rehabilitating your body after an injury.

Now that you understand you’re not about to learn something that will change every breath you take from here on out, let’s start learning how to practice Pilates breathing.

Think about how you’re breathing right now.

Take a moment to think about how you’re breathing right now. Notice if you feel tension anywhere in your body. Pay attention to whether your belly moves or your chest rises and falls as you breathe.

Try to notice every single detail you can about how you’re breathing.

How to Practice Pilates Breathing Like a Pro

Make sure you’re practicing Pilates breathing during a time where you can focus on yourself and notice how you feel. If you feel distracted, save this exercise for another time.

As you follow the instructions below, make sure to focus on what you’re doing and how it feels as you breathe.

Breathing Into Your Rib Cage

  1. Take a comfortable seat. Feel your SITs bones (those bones you feel on your bottom when you’re sitting) press down into whatever you’re sitting on.
  2. Place your hands around the bottom of your ribs so your thumbs are pointing toward your spine and your fingers point toward your belly.
  3. Feel your bottom ribs. You want to have your bottom ribs angled so they point straight down at your hips and pelvis. (Sometimes, the ribs will angle forward like they’re aiming for your lap. This is especially true for folks with low back pain. If this sounds like you, try to engage your abdominal muscles to angle your rib cage straight down to your hips.)
  4. Breathe in through your nose and notice how your rib cage fills up.
  5. You want to actually feel your bottom ribs move when you breathe. This way, you know you’re breathing deep enough.
  6. You also want to feel your rib cage expand three-dimensionally. This means you should feel your ribs open to the front, expand to the sides, and even expand to the back. (Because of the spine, there’s less opportunity for movement in the back of the rib cage, but there should still be some.)

The Pilates Breathing Exhale

how to practice pilates breathing
  1. Exhale through pursed lips as if you’re blowing out candles.
  2. Envision a midpoint in your abdomen that is totally centered top to bottom, front to back, and left to right.
  3. Feel all the muscles between your ribs and hips gently hug toward this central spot. (Make sure to avoid any sort of squeezing or gripping feelings.)
  4. Keep breathing.

Related: If you want to learn more about the muscle that’s working when you exhale, check out How Transverse Abdominis Activation Can Get Rid of Your Back Pain Immediately and Simultaneously Help You Look Inches Thinner.

Why is Pilates breathing so special?

When you practice Pilates breathing, the exhale-through-pursed-lips part helps activate a deep abdominal muscle called the transverse abdominis.

This muscle works as your body’s natural corset. It helps keep your internal organs inside your body, provides support for your other abdominal muscles, and helps keep the space between your ribs and hips.

All three of these tasks impact how your abdominals and other core muscles work, how your body moves, and whether you have pain (particularly in the hips and low back).

People who have low back or hip pain can often greatly reduce their suffering by practicing Pilates breathing and strengthening the transverse abdominis.

In fact, breathing is one of the first pain-relieving exercises I teach in my online course, Spinal Rejuvenation. Click the link to learn how you can use exercise to start relieving your pain today!

For those who have had an abdominal surgery such as an umbilical hernia repair or C-section, Pilates breathing is the first exercise you will want to do when you’re getting your body ready to resume your normal activities.

Related: If you’re recovering from abdominal surgery, check out Ready to Exercise After Umbilical Hernia Surgery? Start Here. Or, click here if you’re searching for a course to help you rebuild your post-surgical self.

A Pilates Breathing Video for Visual Learners

Sometimes, it’s just easier to have someone talk you through what you’re supposed to do when you practice Pilates breathing. Here’s a video to help.

So, how do I use breathing to relieve pain or rehabilitate?

When you practice Pilates breathing, you’re doing a simple exercise to strengthen your transverse abdominis. Think of using this exercise just like any other core-strengthener.

You can practice this type of breathing on consecutive days and for as long as you want each day.

To give you an idea of how long you could practice for, a Pilates class is normally an hour long and you use this style of breathing for everything you do. That’s not to say that you have to practice breathing for an hour at a time, but you could.

Even a minute or two each day will be extremely beneficial and will produce results.

What matters most is that you’re able to feel your transverse abdominis strengthen and work better throughout the day.

In particular, you should notice better posture without a ton of effort. If you’re searching for other exercises to help give you better posture, rehabilitate after an injury, or relieve your aches + pains; check out Spinal Rejuvenation.

Or, if you’d like to learn a quick way to relieve your muscle pains, download your copy of The Secret to IMMEDIATE + LASTING Pain Relief now!

About Sarah Stockett

Hi, I'm Sarah! I'm a certified Pilates and yoga instructor with a passion for pain relief. I believe you can use simple exercises to relieve your aches + pains. AND, I believe I can teach you how.