Tutorial #1736

Breathing Tutorial

15 min - Tutorial


Ruth Alpert believes the only wrong way to breathe is just not to breathe. However, there are many different ways to breathe, and there is a way to breathe properly depending on the exercise or activity that you are performing. This tutorial will educate you on the difference between belly breathing and rib cage breathing as it applies to Pilates movements such as the Hundred and Roll Up.
What You'll Need: No props needed

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Aug 01, 2014
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Hi, I'm Ruth Alpert, and this again is my trusty demo person, Leah longly. Um, we're talking about breath in this tutorial and there are many, many ways to breathe. There's no one right way to breathe. But there I think of it more as there's a right way to breathe for the exercise or the activity that you're doing. So if you're an opera singer, there's a right way to breathe for that. And if you're doing yoga, there's a right way to breathe for that. And in Ponies, we also have a particular way of breathing that's built in to how the exercises are constructed and breath work. And [inaudible] is very important I think because Joe Polonius himself had breathing issues as a child. He had asthma, he had rheumatic fever, and he developed a lot of the work to build up his lung capacity in his diaphragm. There's, you know, the old joke, there's really truly only one wrong way to breathe. And the joke goes that the Devo t searches his whole life for the answer to what his life. And he goes to one guru after another and he goes to Tibet.

And he goes to these places and finally he's crawling up the mountain and he gets to the guru who's sitting on the mountaintop and says, please tell me the secret of life. And the guru of course says, keep breathing. It's an old joke. I know you've all heard it. It's really pretty stupid, but it really is true. The only wrong way to breathe is to not breathe. And so it's, it's a joke, but it's actually not a joke because we live in such a culture. It's such an adrenalized culture.

Our adrenaline is pumping all the time from coffee, from traffic, from, you know, the email you just got from multitasking, whatever. So that we're always in a state of hyperness. And in that hyperness we're here right in, in an excited state. Many of us don't exhale completely. We're, a lot of us are caught in the inhale and we never totally get down. And especially if you've been in any kind of trauma of any kind, emotional, physical, whatever, a trauma response is held in the diaphragm.

And we'll be that startle, inhale and staying there. And I've actually worked with clients who had issues when they were seven years old and their rib cages were still not releasing entirely into their sixties so we're going to do some demos of [inaudible] breathing and ways to find your breath, which we'll get to right now. So the very first thing that I'd like you to do, and everybody can do this at home, lie down on your back with your knees up or your legs on a chair or somehow supported and just find your breath. Don't do anything yet. So Leah, put your hands down. Just notice how you're breathing when you breathe.

Normally what is actually moving when you breathe normally, and just pay attention to that for a moment or two. How much of your ribs, how much of your belly does a breath go into your neck or all the way down to your pelvis? Or does it stay localized in a smaller area? And there is no right and wrong. Anything you get is fine. So you meet yourself where you are before we start and then put your hands on your ribs. And what I'd like you to do, again talking about how most of us are stuck on the inhale, what I'd like you to do is make the letter s as you exhale, which narrows your breath, makes it go out a, um, a longer too.

And that way it slows down your exhale so that you have a chance to feel more. So Leah is going to breathe in normally and as she exhales her ribs and sternum and chest descend. So notice how this place also descends. You have ribs all the way up and now she's going to add the hissing. I forgot Leah doesn't have a microphone. I do. So all his [inaudible] and letting your sternum go all the way down.

Good and rest. Take your hands away. Another thing I'd like to demonstrate is how flexible the rib cages. So you might have felt some tightness in your ribs descending, but whole front part of your ribs is cartilage, right? And there the ribs are built to move. So I'm just going to do a little bit of the Trager approach on Leo.

Sorry for my ice cold hands here. Right? This is ribs, ribs bounce. They're very bouncy, right? That's how much excursion the ribs can actually release. Right? Ribs are loose in this culture. Again, a lot. We are, our pelvises are not in our consciousness for the most part and so we ended up stabilizing with our rib cages and rib cages get very rigid, um, where really the ribs or the expressive part of us and our pelvises should be strong and grounded and we have it flipped backwards. So this can take quite a while to get your ribs.

Like I'm talking weeks and months. Doing this. Hissing XL is an excellent way to start to get your ribs to descend. There are other ways to, no, we're going to add a piece to this. Exhaling and inhaling Leah and all of you at home. You can hiss your exhale, right?

[inaudible] ribs and sternum go down and your abs can track naturally at the bottom of your exhale. Now keep your abs contracted as you inhale and exhale ribs and sternum go down in the abs are going to tighten naturally and then keep that abs scoop as you inhale. What this is going to do is force the air into your rib cage. If you don't allow yourself to belly breathe, the air is going to have to fill up the sides and back, especially of your rib cage. And this is really important because there's an exercise called the hundreds, which is very often at the beginning of a workout. Leah, could you demonstrate the hundreds? If she's belly breathing and her belly is going up and down, it's gonna throw her head back, come down from boat for a moment so I can talk.

And you're not doing that for too long. The air is going to have to go into the back of her ribs when you're curled over, right when she's curled up and over, you still have to breathe, but you don't get to belly breathe. And so that's a really crucial piece of Palabra is breathing. And we're going to go into a few different ways to help you feel that. One way that I've used to help people find sending the breath into the back of their ribs, because this really is quite a new idea for a lot of you.

And also very challenging. If you have a big ball and it's not terribly pumped up, you want it somewhat soft so that it's resilient. Just drape yourself over it and just breathe. Just relax into the ball and breathe. Just normal breath.

And because of the nature of the ball, it w because there's pressure on your front, it will send the breath into the back of your ribs. And Leah's demonstrating this quite nicely. It happens naturally into the ball. You can exaggerate it a little bit if you like, but it's also a given. Just if you go over the ball and if you feel like it's too pokey in your belly, just let a little more air out of the ball. Beautiful. It's also very calming.

Another place to feel this. If you don't have a ball at home, you can mimic the same idea in child's pose. You could also put a pillow between your thighs and your chest, um, to have something soft to breathe into. And again, Leah's gonna be a really lovely demonstration of watching the breath go into her back, right? So it's the the back and sides of her ribs where the inhale is expanding and as you do this Leopold in your abs, let's see what that looks like. Basically, the idea with the ball or with this is that you're squishing your front so that there isn't room to breathe in your front and the air goes into the back and sides. So we're going to put this together in a very basic, simple exercise that you've probably been given in a, in a beginning lesson, a basic ab curl. So clasp your hands, really make a hammock and put them at the part of your head, the part of your head that touches the floor, not base of your neck.

I really want your head completely the weight of your head completely supported and take a deep breath in for nothing and exhale and start to curl yourself up by dropping your ribs and expanding in the back and pulling in your abs and then relax back down. Inhale for nothing. Exhales [inaudible] them has to drop. Ribs have to come down and you come up. If you don't let your sternum and ribs go down, your neck is going to eat it, right? You're going to do something really funky with your neck and you're going to hate all of these kinds of exercises.

So if you can program this in, now that you start on an exhale, ribs go down and your spine gets to curl, and your abs of course are working. So this is a breathing with abs, with spine movement, and your hands are supporting the weight of your head so that you take all the neck mishegoss out of it. Yes. Beautiful. Great. Thank you very much. Happy breathing.

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I liked the way she explained the ribcage breathing. Definitely putting this in to my class routine. She didn't cover the rest of the ribcage expansion techniques though... I wish she showed more cues and imagery for side breathing.
2 people like this.
Enjoyed this. Some useful techniques
1 person likes this.
Thanks Oksana for your feedback! I agree, there are lots more ways to get clients into side breathing.... the intention here was to keep it very short and simple, aiming to speak to people who have never done pilates - as if it was their very first lesson. Another useful cue is giving your client a theraband to hold across their ribs (make sure the theraband is spread wide to give a sense of broadness, and you can tie it in front or just have them hold it). Have them breath into the theraband. This gives tactile feedback, especially good for people who don't sense easily. Do you have some favorite ways?
1 person likes this.
Ruth, thank you so much for your respond and theraband technique! I can't wait to try it myself tonight! Great tip!!!
Thank you. Now I get why my neck hurts. Going to try at home tonight!
Thanks Jennifer Chan. Did you try it? How's it going?
For me the breath is essential in getting the softness of the sternum to facilitate curl ups and something that seems to take the longest for beginners to connect with, to remove any neck tension. I like the idea of tuning into the S-shape for the outbreath - do you have any other cues that seem to click with students to "crack" the curl up neck tension issue?
Hi Charlotte - besides exhaling the sternum down, I've used the foam roller sideways under bra-line, with arching back and curling up, hands supporting head. The curling up on the 6" foam roller really enhances the ribs going down - but the head must be resting in hands and mostly passive, so the ribs are what moves the head. I've also had people hold onto their bra base/shirt, and pull down while curling up to get the feeling. My pal Celia, a pilates and Gyrotonic Master teacher, had us put the backs of our hands together, palms facing out/thumbs against sternum, with our finger tips pointing towards our pelvis and curl up with our hands providing encouragement for the sternum to go down. You can always use a magic circle or towel to support the head, too....
1 person likes this.
...Too long for one post, so here's the rest of it:
The main gist is that the head sets the direction with a tiny tiny nod, then the movement goes immediately down into the thoracic spine (it moves through the neck so quickly that I never cue the neck). My first workshop for Pilates Anytime goes into the head/neck issue in more depth.....
Is there a technical problem today, PA site opens but none of the videos will load. Could there be a problem with my account or is it the site? I have been trying on and off throughout the day, I can search through the site but nothing (videos) will load, I just get a black screen.
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