Jokes aside, I often got thanked by clients/students after classes for cueing breathing, frequently with a comment of “I get confused when to inhale or exhale”. As Pilates teachers we are taught to cue the breath pattern that is optimal for the movement. This is based on the physiological workings of respiration.

Typically we do effortful movements and twists on the exhale. As we breathe in, the chest expands and pushes down on other abdominal contents. Fully expanded it would be difficult to bend or twist on the inhale. Since the space is finite when we breathe in and do effortful movements, there is an increase in the abdominal pressure, this is when the law of least resistance comes in.

When you lift both legs up during an inhale you, or someone next to you in class, might have had the experience of making a slightly embarrassing bodily function to release that pressure. Hence the mantra, breathe in to prepare…The appropriate breathing pattern also helps protect the pelvic floor. Although the breath pattern can be reversed if we can prevent ourselves from bearing down onto the pelvic floor.

Despite all these, we do know that many bodies will defy laws of science and physics so I would always say, “If the breath pattern that I am cueing today is not working for you – do the reverse. If you are breathing you are doing very well, just don’t hold your breath. Maybe save that for when your inner 2 year old is having a tantrum 🤪.

Dr AC Grist

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