A rolled up yoga mat can help you wih Pilates pelvic floor breathing.
Pilates, like yoga, tai chi and qigong uses breathing techniques to improve the oxygen supply to the body's cells and maximize the effects of the physical exercises. However, the Pilates approach to breath control differs from the abdomen- and diaphragm-centered Eastern techniques learned in yoga or qigong. Instead, the Pilates technique focuses on using the thoracic and back muscles to expand the ribs sideways, thus making more room for the lungs. This technique is called lateral breathing.
Basic Lateral Breathing
Breath control is an integral part of all Pilates exercises, so learning the Pilates lateral-breathing technique is a first step before working on stretches and stabilizing your core muscles. It is also important to note that the Pilates system puts emphasis on the "out" breath, because each movement is performed on the exhale. The reason for this is that your diaphragm lifts up as you breathe out, your stomach muscles tighten and your spine lengthens. This action plays an important role in the Pilates core-stabilization process.
First practice this basic technique. You can sit or stand; whichever is more comfortable for you. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. You may have to repeat this many times before it starts to feel natural.
There are two key points to remember when using the breathing technique with the muscle exercises. First, don't relax your stomach muscles on the inhale because this can make you lose correct postural alignment and use the wrong muscles. Second, never hold your breath because you're having problems coordinating breath and movement. This puts pressure on your heart and lungs. Use your natural breathing pattern if your breath and movements get out of sync.
Coordinated Breathing and Muscle Control
Lie down on an exercise mat or a comfortable firm surface. Keep your feet hip-width apart and your knees bent. Place your hands on your abdomen, between your hip bones, with your fingertips touching. Now, breathe in through your nose. Take as deep a breath as is comfortable for you without straining. As you exhale, feel your abdominal muscles sink into your pelvis. Now, consciously pull your abdominal muscles in further, as if you were trying to make them touch your spine. Repeat this six to 10 times.
The Resistance Exercise
Lie down on an exercise mat or a comfortable firm surface. Keep your feet hip-width apart and your knees bent. Now, raise your hands and arms to the height of your knees, keeping your arms straight and palms facing downward. Breathe in through your nose. Then as you exhale through your mouth, feel your abdominal muscles pull in toward your spine. During your exhale lower your hands toward the floor and, at the same time, visualize yourself pressing a float down through water. This creates a feeling of resistance. Finish with your hands on the floor. Repeat the exercise six to 10 times.
Pelvic Floor Breathing
This breathing exercise works the pelvic floor muscles at a deeper level than than the previous ones. You'll need a cushion or rolled up yoga mat for this one. Lie down on your mat with your feet together and your knees bent. Place the cushion between your knees and put your hands on your abdomen. Take a small breath in through your nose. Follow a sequence of movements during the exhale: tighten and pull up your pelvic floor, squeeze your buttocks together gently and squeeze the cushion with your knees. Hold this "squeeze" position for three breaths if possible. Alternatively, squeeze on the out breath and release on the in breath. Repeat six to 10 times.