The Power of Proper Breathing

17 Oct


In Pilates classes, you often hear phrases like “remember to use your breathing” or “pilates breath”.  We know it, we do it – but… why?   What is so important about proper breathing techniques?  Turns out, research shows that how we breathe can not only change the effectiveness of our workouts, but also how we feel in day to day situations.  If you have the time, I highly suggest reading through this study.   Just stop and think about it – in stressful or anxious situations, our breathing becomes short and rapid (sometimes we call it “hyperventilating”).  When those intense situations are over we “breathe a sigh of relief”.   What is actually happening in our bodies is this:

“Internally, each time you inhale, you activate the sympathetic nervous system — our “fight or flight” response. And each time you exhale, you activate the parasympathetic nervous system — our “rest and digest” response.”

By extending and controlling those breaths, we can manage our psychological and emotional states.   That’s amazing power to have for our daily lives, but what about when we’re exercising?    A good breathing pattern ensures that your working muscles will continue to receive the oxygen they need to keep contracting – and thus, keep your workout going without you having to stop to catch your breath.

Curious to try some breathing techniques out?  Here are a few exercises to get your started:

Boost Your Mood 
Start by inhaling a tiny stream of breath through your mouth and gradually accelerate and intensify that inhale, then immediately exhale through your mouth without the slightest pause. That acceleration and intensification will give you a natural high.

Manage Stress
Inhale for four counts. Hold that breath for four counts. Exhale for four counts. Hold for another four counts. Keep repeating this pattern – it’s referred to as “box breathing”. You can do this through your nose if you’re already calm, in through your nose and out your mouth to regulate energy, or all through your mouth to channel the energy of the stress.

Calm Down
Inhale through your nose for two counts, and exhale through your mouth for four counts. Keep doing this until you start to feel more relaxed. Then increase the length of both breaths – inhale for three counts and exhale for six counts. When ready, move to inhaling for four counts and exhale for eight counts.

For more energy, you want to focus on your inhale. Your aim is to double the capacity of the air you normally take in.  Breathe through your mouth, inhale, then immediately inhale again without stopping (the double-inhale should be one smooth action). Then exhale.

Remember:  When in doubt, just breathe.  See you at the Studio!  

PX Studio

Article Sources:
Taylor & Francis Science Journal Online (
MyFitnessPal (





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