What is quality of breath in my practice?

The intrinsic core consists of

  • the Diaphragm
  • Transvesrus abdominals
  • Posterior fibers of internal oblique
  • Pelvic floor
  • Multifidus (back muscles)
  • and the Lumbar portions of longissimus and iliocastalis

I share this breakdown of intrinsic core not to go deeper in the pieces but to show how important the role of the diaphragm is within the body. In Pilates, we center ourselves evenly onto a mat or piece of apparatus and then proceed through a series of exercises to build strength, length, articulation and balance within our bodies. Leaving out the movement of the diaphragm is a little like eating an Oreo cookie without the filling. Good on its own, but incomplete.

Over the past 2 weeks we have been reviewing and practicing diaphragmatic breathing in every session. It’s amazingly simple.


Inhale to expand the diaphragm in all directions: from top to bottom, back to front and even side to side. The diaphragm expands with a full body breath towards your hips, back, sides of the body and of course, your front body.

Upon exhalation, gather muscularly from the center of your body, then narrow and lift your diaphragm.

More simply put, inhale to expand all directions, exhale to become smaller and lift the muscles.

If you still have trouble finding or knowing if you are accessing your diaphrapm, ask at your next session in the studio and we will guide you.

We know that quality movement in the diaphragm is key to improving the function of your body. Joseph Pilates explains some of Why and How to work on your breathing.

From Joseph Pilates:

“True heart control follows correct breathing which simultaneously reduces heart strain, purifies the blood, and develops the lungs. To breathe correctly you must completely exhale and inhale, always trying very hard to “squeeze” every atom of impure air from your lungs in much the same manner that you would wring every drop of water from a wet cloth. When you stand erect, the lungs will automatically completely refill themselves with fresh air. This in turn supplies the bloodstream with vitally necessary life-giving oxygen.

Also, the complete exhalation and inhalation of air stimulates all muscles into greater activity. Soon the entire body is abundantly charged with fresh oxygen…

Breathing is the first act of life and the last. Our very life depends on it.

Lazy breathing converts the lungs figuratively speaking into a cemetery for the deposition of deceased, dying and dead germs as well as supplying an ideal haven for the multiplication of other harmful germs. Therefore, above all, learn how to breathe correctly. Squeeze every atom of air from your lungs until they are almost as free of air as a vacuum.”
-J. Pilates from Return to Life 

I love the part of the lazy breathing-guilty as charged!!

Take 5 minutes once, twice, even 3 times a day if you like and incorporate good quality breathing into whatever you are doing. I am sure you will feel a change in the quality of what you are doing.

I hope some of this supports first your awareness, and second your attention to full diaphragmatic breathing.



If you are curious to learn more or explore whether or not you are breathing with quality movement,  ask in your next session. Your teacher can keep an eye out and offer you better cues to have you focus on deep breathing.

From Lesley:

Towards the end of last year, friend and movement colleague Tonya Ford reminded me of the importance of diaphragmatic breathing. She says, “Whether it is loss of power to the shoulders or compression of the hips, the one system they have in common is your intrinsic core.”

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