Breathing is something we often forget about during exercising. Mid sweat session it’s not easily said nor done. But conscious breathing is vital to exercise. Not only can it enhance your workout, but being in control of your breath can help you remain calm and stay focused in everything that you do.
So for the third week of our six-week Pilates challenge with One Hot Yoga & Pilates Instructor, Tahlia Ware, we are focusing on the oh-so important Pilates principle: breath.
“In Pilates, all movement is propelled by breath. Our breath is our body’s fuel and when used correctly it is the driving force behind Pilates. This is a useful principle to connect mind to body and also connect our Pilates practice to our everyday lives. Our breath sustains our body and gives us life, as it does too with our movement,” says Tahlia.
Throughout this workout Tahlia advises you to focus on the Pilates breathing technique. Inhale through the nose, sending the breath into the sides and the backs of the ribcage. Exhale through the mouth with a slightly forced breathe through pursed lips, gently drawing up through the deep, lower abdominals.
Practice this every morning and you’ll start your day more centred and focused, and find yourself more productive.
This is a great exercise to connect to your breath, prepare your body and build strength for the full Leg Pull Front or ‘Plank’ exercise.
Pro Tip: To increase the challenge, hold the knees off the mat for three to five breathes before lowering; focusing on the Pilates breathing technique.
Safety Tip: Be sure not to break the alignment of the spine when the knees lift off the mat. Think of pressing down through the hands and feet as you hover off and lifting your front body (abdominals) up towards your back body (spine)
Single leg kick will challenge your coordination, moving the legs whilst keeping the hips stable. We want to keep the hip and thigh still by keeping the glutes active, while also using the hamstrings to bend the knee.
Pro Tip: To decrease the challenge, lie the whole body onto the mat with the hands stacked under the forehead. This will make it easier to keep the pelvis stable and avoid any movement or rotation of the hips.
Safety Tip: Keep the glutes active! The pelvis should not ‘hump the ground’ during the exercise. If you notice the pelvis moving or feel any discomfort through the lower back, try the above variation having the whole body lying on the mat.
This exercise will challenge the endurance of the back and core muscles. We want to create even extension through the neck, upper back and lower back to emphasise the length of the spine. Coordinate the arms, legs and spinal movement with the breath.
Pro Tip: Use a staccato breath as you pulse your knees. Three sharp breathes out through your mouth like you’re blowing out a birthday candle to match the three pulses of the knees.
Safety Tip: Keep the pelvis still while the legs are moving. Avoid rocking on the hipbones as the knees bend by keeping the movement small and the abdominals working throughout the exercise.
Rocking is a fantastic stretch for the chest, hips and thighs. It will bring the body into the opposite position to how we spend most of our day when seated. Use your breath to find more space and open the front of the body.
Pro Tip: It is all about pressing back with the legs as though you are going to straighten them. From that pulling sensation, the chest will be able to comfortably lift. The ‘Inhale’ breath will assist the lift.
Safety Tip: If you have limited flexibility, rocking can be preformed with a flex-band or yoga strap around the ankles. Don’t have a band or strap at home? Try using an old T-shirt or towel; wrap it around the ankles and hold on to either side with each hand.
This is an advanced exercise to strengthen the shoulders and improve spinal mobility whilst providing a great challenge for the abdominal strength.
Pro Tip: Use your breath to guide you. Inhale to hold, exhale to move. Remember in Pilates the ‘exhale’ breath gives you more activation through the abdominals, so use that as support for the movement of your spine.
Safety Tip: You should feel no discomfort in your lower back throughout the exercise. Be sure to feel confident executing ‘Leg Pull Front Prep’ first before adding the extension. Try this exercise keeping the spine straight as you point and flex the foot first, and then add the extra spinal movement.