What is an Abdominal Breathing Exercise?
When you watch a baby sleeping you can see their belly rise and fall as they breathe in and out.
This is a natural abdominal breathing exercise that babies do unknowingly.
As we age we tend to lose our natural instincts for breathing and it becomes more shallow.
We do not get the full inhalation and exhalation to see this movement in the belly.
When you inhale normally your lungs expand, your diaphragm drops and your stomach moves out. As you exhale, your diaphragm lifts and your stomach or belly button pulls in.
This is called abdominal breathing and it should feel quite natural to you.
We, as a society, are tense and tight in our neck and upper back...
Most of this is due, in part to the way we breathe incorrectly all day long, sitting at our desk or computers, driving, etc.
We breathe from our chest and don't use the diaphragm the way it was intended.
Place one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest. As you inhale deeply through your nose you should feel your chest and stomach expand out.
Make sure that you do not hike your shoulders up but keep them down and relaxed as you do this abdominal breathing exercise.
As you exhale expel all the air out and feel the stomach and chest collapsing or pulling in like a vacuum sucking all the air out.
Pilates breathing is different than your normal abdominal breathing in that we need to contract the abdominal muscles to strengthen them. So we use a technique involving thoracic(ribcage) breathing.
When doing Pilates exercises it is important that our focus be on the abdominal muscle contraction. This is the center or core support for the rest of our body.
Without the abdominal muscles being contracted and stabilizing our trunk we are not effectively able to use the muscles of the extremities without possibility of injury.
Lying(as shown), Standing, or sitting up tall place your hands just below your chest on either side of your ribcage. Inhale through your nose and feel an expansion laterally and posteriorly through your ribcage (thoracic spine area).
You can get a better fell for this exercise if you wrap a stretch band around your ribs just under the chest and hold it a little bit taut while feeling it tense and stretch as you breathe.
As you exhale through your mouth expelling all of the air out feel the ribs collapse back in as your abdominals contract and you feel the belly button pulling into your spine.
Your focus should be on keeping the abdominals contracted while breathing into your ribcage instead of your belly so that your ribs expand outward as you inhale.
“Breathing is the first act of life. Our very life depends on it. Millions have never learned to master the art of correct breathing.” -Joseph H. Pilates
To learn more about the principles of Pilates breathing and when and how to breath correctly when performing the classic exercises leave abdominal breathing exercise and check out the new Pilates ebook here.