This is quite a common question in Pilates classes and, though Joseph Pilates himself specified a breathing pattern for some of his exercises, the best answer might be “Trust that your body knows best.”
The most important guidance around breathing in a Pilates class (or any other activity) is to carry on – keep breathing! We are always trying to promote efficient movement and, unless you are lifting very heavy weights, holding your breath will not help. Efficient movement will typically happen in a rhythm with your breathing.
You know best
While there might be ‘logical’ phases of an exercise that work with inhaling or exhaling, and your teacher might give you suggestions for when to breath in or out, the truth is that the best way to breath is what works for you.
It’s likely that, if you focus on the movement, your body will automatically settle into a breathing pattern that allows it to perform the movement most easily. Movement that looks and feels easy is most likely to be efficient movement.
If you are still not sure which is the best breathing pattern for you in a particular exercise then try different patterns, even the opposite of what might seem ‘normal’. The chances are that you will feel what is right for you by feeling what doesn’t work so well.
The ‘take home’
Unless you have specific breathing problems, don’t think about how or when you ‘should’ breath. There’s no reason for a Pilates exercise to require specific breathing any more than walking to the shops, or running for the bus.
Next week: “Where should I breathe?”