Breathing exercises not only calm the body down but can facilitate movement in a Pilates exercise. The two best breathing techniques for a Pilates exercise are lateral and intercoastal breathing. This means full and deep breathing to expand the belly. So why is breathing important during a Pilates exercise? 

Joseph Pilates acknowledged that people typically don’t expand their lungs to their full capacity, and only bring air to the top of their lungs – not into their diaphragm. This can increase stress, cause stiffness in movement and won’t bring enough oxygen to lengthen muscles during a Pilates workout. 

Conscious deep breathing can activate the abdominal muscles near the ribs to expand laterally. This will ensure blood flows into the ab muscles to energize them for Pilates movement.

Studies show that every human is born with the capacity to breathe through their diaphragm. But it is common that breathing deeply can get out of practice through shortness of breath from daily stressors. 

To practice diaphragmatic breathing before and during a Pilates exercise in a simple fashion, lie on your back on a flat surface and keep your knees bent. To modify this position, you can use a pillow under your head or under your knees for support.

To begin, place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach, right under your rib cage.

Breathe in slowly through your nose, and focus breathing in towards your lower belly, until your hand on your stomach rises. A helpful tip is visualizing your stomach as a balloon, and you are filling it up with air. As you exhale through your mouth, tighten your abdominal muscles to get all the air out of your lungs. The hand on your belly will slowly deflate to its original position.

Through this breathing practice, more oxygen can be exchanged through the release of carbon dioxide – to de stress and lengthen muscles to perform to their best ability during Pilates, cardio and your everyday living. Harvard Health Editors. “Learning Diaphragmatic Breathing.” Harvard Health,