One of most important aspects of teaching Pilates is the importance of moving from the core. Cueing is a way to overcome the limitations of language. One word cannot describe all that happens. Through constant reminders. the instructor keeps the mind busy as the body breaths, engages, and moves. I measure the accuracy of my words by seeing how they play out in the class setting. Nothing is more rewarding in my being wrong and the student follows my words rather than my intent. Nothing like wanting the toe to reach for the sky and watching the foot slide down the mat. I must laugh, yes, thank you for listening.
The Pilates breath is the foundation for controlling the body’s movement. Pilates is a dance. The breath is the music from which the body responds. The breath is the pattern of flow from smooth to rapid and we aim for all movement to be effortless. When asked to focus on something like the breath, the mind becomes confused. The mind immediately forgets the natural order of breathing. How do I breathe? The body expands as it fills with air as its inhale and the body contracts as it pushes air out as it exhales. The four stage breath cycle honors the transitions from inhale, exhale, and inhale. The pause celebrates the body’s awareness of moving from one stage of breathing to the next. In the pause is where the magic happens. When we learn to appreciate the pause in the breath, we can recognize other opportunities to pause.
The dance between breathing and moving likens flow. The body flows to inhale expand big and exhale contract small. Begin with the shoulder blades. Emphasize drawing the shoulder blades up with the inhale. Draw the shoulder blades down the spine with the exhale. The shoulder blades’ range of motion caresses the spine upward and then down to the waist. Think not of up and down as a destination, rather continue the energy of up and down. When the shoulders blades are at their highest, feel the fullness of breath. At its fullest point, notice how the body shifts from drawing in to release. With the exhale, draw the shoulders down and force the breath out. Repeat. Look for the moment when the shoulder blades reach their lowest point along with the last bit of exhale. The body celebrates its elegant return upward.
Now you have the idea of the fullness of breathwork and its movement with the body. Bring your attention to the area from the bottom rib to the top of the hip, from the front of the body to the back. Here is your core. The Pilates exercises intend to create a powerhouse from this area. A strong back means strong abdominals. Most Pilates moves happen while laying down. Caution yourself to avoid creating a habit to extend the belly outward to draw the breath in. Think about drawing the breath down toward the pelvic floor. Pilates practice encourages the body to breath with an engaged core. The core is to be firm not ridged. There is a hint of relaxation.
Time is well spent when practicing the intricacies of the Pilates breath. Breathing the Pilates breath enhances your Pilates experience. You are ready for a delightful dance between the mind and body through the breath. Enjoy.