I’ve found that people new to pilates ALWAYS find the breathing difficult.
One thing that I believe is rarely mentioned in pilates circles is that the muscles involved in breathing undergo training adaptations related to participation in pilates on a regular basis.
Initially, beginners will not be able to fill their lungs for a host of reasons as follows:
1. The participant has to learn the “pilates breathe.”
2. The muscles involved in breathing must adapt to the new stimulus as they are being used differently. (i.e., When we are breathing normally, we are rarely in the postures that we find ourselves in while performing pilates exercises. Filling one’s lungs with air in a rolling like a ball position and filling one’s lungs when doing the swan dive place the body in different positions. The muscles involved in breathing need to be trained to breathe in those positions as well).
3. Cues that I have found to be effective is to instruct the individual to place their hands on the sides of their rib cage–left and right and while inhaling, be aware of how their rib cage expands east and west. On the exhale, concentrate on expelling their air from their lungs as if you are squeezing air from an accordion. I encourage the group to visualize the left and right sides of their rib cage gliding away from each other on the inhale and gliding back toward each other on the exhale.
If they’re lying supine on a mat or carriage, I tell them to feel the back of the rib cage lightly pressing into the mat/carriage, and as they exhale to feel that pressure release.
I also put hands on w/ a new student, my hands on the sides and back of their rib cage and ask them to push out into my hands w/ an inhale & tighten the abs w/ an exhale.
As people progress, I begin to explain & show them the diaphragm ( a picture of) and explain what happens when it contracts and releases.