A question we’ve heard plenty of times from students and professionals alike is how breath factors into our practice — or more to the point, should we even be cueing clients to breathe during their practice.
While breathing is naturally a big part of what we do here at, ahem, Breathe Education, the answer to this question is a little more variable than you might expect. Perhaps the more useful question here is why you would cue breath. The most basic reasons we might guide a client’s breathing are to relax the body and settle into the environment of the lesson. To that, it might be helpful to cue breath at the beginning or end of a class, if only to aid those transitions into or out of the Pilates headspace, or to help someone find a shape as they work through positions. We’ve all felt those instances where we can breathe our way through moments of discomfort or difficulty, so sometimes prompting that deliberate inhale-exhale can help push a stretch to the next level. That can be especially true in positions that involve spinal extensions or flexions, which map very nicely to the pattern of breathing. You can test this wherever you might be right now by taking a nice, deep in-breath. You’ll find your spine naturally wants to extend a bit, and then vice versa on the exhale.
Maybe the last big reason we’d cue someone’s breath is if we know they’re either pregnant and/or have high blood pressure. This is because breath-holding can actually raise our blood pressure as we go through the exercise, which can have some unintended side effects if those underlying conditions are present.
Ok, so those are instances where we might want to cue breath. So why wouldn’t we want to do that?
The simplest answer is this: Current research shows that motor learning (movement skills) is facilitated best by keeping things simple. Cue what is necessary to get people moving. This is especially important for beginners, who typically have enough to focus on already without the added layer of syncing up their breathing with all this unfamiliar repertoire. Breathing is the first thing we did when we were born, it’s not something we were taught to do so why do we feel the need to cue each and every breath?
So there we have it, our quick take on when and why to cue breathing! Our CEO and thinker-in-chief Raphael has touched on this subject a few times in his (very) helpful AMAs, so don’t hesitate to get in touch if you’ve got further questions.