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with Cathy Kandalec-Sweetman, Certified Pilates Instructor
In this segment of our Better Breathing Series, I'd like to introduce you to a special breathing technique used in Pilates called POSTERIOR/LATERAL (BACK/SIDES) RIB BREATHING. This style of breathing is a basic foundation for all Pilates based exercises and is well worth the time and practice to learn. This technique has a dual purpose in that it allows us to keep the abdominal muscles pulled in deeply, so they can act like a protective corset for the spine throughout each exercise, and at the same time expand the ribs creating space and length throughout the spine.
Pilates Breathing Sequence - Standing/Sitting
1. Wrap band/scarf around the lower part of your rib cage, full width, cross the ends in front of your body, elbows at your sides, palms up.
2. Keeping your shoulders relaxed, pull the ends of the band gently forward to create pressure against your ribs.
3. Inhale, let your breath travel down your spine, expanding your ribs into your back & sides and sense the pressure of your ribs against the scarf by your inhale (breath moves the band, not your whole body shifting weight).
4. Exhale, draw your abs in and up as your ribs close gently together (arms will pull slightly forward).
5. Repeat for 8-10 breath cycles.
6. Note: If you find yourself without a band or scarf, hug yourself, crossing your arms in front of yourself and have your hands touching the sides of your lower ribs (fingers point behind yourself).
Pilates Breathing Sequence - Child's Pose/Rest Position
1. Come onto your hands and knees (only if knees OK), sit your buttocks back towards your heels (can put a pillow between your buttocks and heels), round forward, resting your head on top of your hands or on the floor.
2. Inhale, breathing into your back, expanding your back ribs towards the ceiling and wide to the sides of the room.
3. Exhale and pull your abs in and up while gently closing the ribs that expanded with your inhale.
4. Repeat for 8-10 breath cycles.
5. Note: This style of breathing may not feel natural at first, but with daily practice you'll re-train your body and re-establish habits for better health.