Tuesday, July 27, 2010


In both Yoga and Pilates we focus on the connection of breath and movement.  Yet the breathing process is different in each method and has a different purpose.

In Yoga, the most common breath taught through the asanas is Ujjayi. An inhalation through the nose and exhalation through the nose, which makes a soft sound at the back of the throat on the exhalation (much like Darth Vader from Star Wars).  The breath is meant to be loud enough to be heard without being too forceful. It is meant to create a rhythm and flow for movement and to create an internal heat.  Many forms like Ashtanga have a set number of breaths for each posture or asana.  The internal breath heats the body from the inside-out, creating a sweat, and detoxifying the body from the purging of this sweat.  There are also many ways of studying the breath through Yoga called Pranayama. Pranayama teaches how to control the breath in different ways for specific purposes, i.e. digestion, stress relief, enlightenment.

In Pilates, the breath is built into the movement as well as cued.  Different than Yoga, Pilates breath is an inhalation through the nose and an exhalation through an open, relaxed mouth. Joseph Pilates called this breath "an internal shower". Imagine trying to see your breath on a cold day or fogging up a mirror.  This breath "supplies the bloodstream with vitally necessary life-giving oxygen in the most efficient manner. Also the complete exhalation and inhalation of air stimulates all muscles into greater activity", according to Joseph Pilates writings Return to Life through Contrology. The breath is used to cleanse and purify the body of toxins, increase circulaiton, and wring the body out.  The movement and breath coordinate with one another the inhalation is usually done on a lengthening or stretching movement and the exhalation on a contracting or shortening movement. It is meant to aid in the movement and the movement aid the breath.

In both practices it important to remember to breathe and not hold or ever tense up on your breath.  If you practice both Yoga and Pilates you may find switching from one style of breath to another confusing. Try to relax and most importantly breathe, regardless of which breath you end up with.  As Joe is often impersonated, in his thick German accent "you must in d air to out d air".

1 comment:

  1. 99.9% of beginner Pilates students get confused by the breathing pattern. Some people even hold their breadth while exercising! To alleviate their need to stop during an exercise to ask which breadth they should take, I tell all my new clients before we start that although I will cue the 'proper' breathing pattern for an exercise 'Do not worry' just continue the exercise, breathe and with time the breathing will become natural to you. This makes them relaxed from the start, and sure enough with time the breathing pattern becomes natural.