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Pilates Breathing: Why and How

Pilates Breathing
By Kyria Sabin

While there are many valid forms of conscious breathing that support different forms of movement and relaxation, Pilates teachers emphasize posterior-lateral breathing over other techniques. Cues like “breathe laterally” and “breathe into the back” are common. Uncommon are the WHY and HOW.

The Whys of Posterior-Lateral Breathing
The four basic “whys” are fairly straightforward:

  • Increase breathing capacity and lung function
  • Maintain abdominal support of the lumbar spine
  • Improve thoracic spinal mobilization and function
  • Restore optimal posture

How to Teach Posterior-Lateral Breathing
When teaching posterior-lateral breathing, tactile feedback often works best. The following are a few teaching tips:

  • Begin with gentle spinal flexion, lateral flexion and rotation, allowing breath to initiate and facilitate the movement.
  • Lie lengthwise on a foam roller with knees bent. Focus on feeling the ribs open laterally away from the spine/roller on inhalation, exhaling fully.
  • Lie supine on a flat surface with knees bent. Inhale to feel the full rib cage spread or fan laterally from the back, maintaining a lengthened spine.
  • Seated tall, wrap a wide band or folded towel around the lower 6 to 7 ribs, crossing the ends in front, gently pulling to emphasize closing of the ribs. Use the band to experience the opening and closing of the ribs from the spine with each breath.


Kyria Sabin is Director of Fletcher Pilates, Inc. and Body Works Studio.

Posted on Monday, April 27, 2009 at 04:00PM by Registered CommenterAmy Leibrock in , | Comments1 Comment

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Reader Comments (1)

When I suffer from a bad cold or my allergies I find that relaxation along with Flonase over the counter my allergy spray is the best way for me to feel 100 times better. Mind over matter as long as my sinuses are clear and I dont have a head ache.I suffered from allergies for years and tried several different things, some prescription, some not, but this is the ONE medicine that help

October 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDiane

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