When you’ve got back pain, you’ll try anything to feel better. But, did you know you could use breathing for pain relief? By practicing Pilates breathing for a little bit every day, you’ll strengthen your back muscles. Plus, you’ll get bonus perks like feeling more relaxed and less stressed.
Breathing doesn’t even sound like it should count as a real exercise. Our bodies do it naturally. So, how can something so automatic be the key to strengthening your back and relieving pain?
The truth is, the automatic breathing that you’re doing right now probably won’t relieve your pain or help your muscles become stronger. It won’t improve your body or make you better.
But, with a little bit of attention and focus, you can change all of that and transform a mindless activity into a therapeutic, muscle-building, core-strengthening exercise!
Here’s everything you need to know to change your average breath into a Pilates breath. By using this breathing exercise, you’ll start breathing for pain relief and help make your back stronger without spending a lot of time exercising.
Related: If you want to learn an easy way to make your back more flexible and reduce stiffness + pain, download The Fast + Easy Way to Relieve Hip + Back Pain.
A Warning Before You Get Started
Before you start learning how to practice breathing for pain relief, I want to take a moment to let you know that Pilates breathing is an exercise.
It’s not meant to replace your normal, relaxed breath.
Instead, you should use this exercise when you’re specifically working to strengthen muscles, relieve aches + pains, or rehabilitate your body after an injury.
Now that you understand you’re not about to learn something that will change every breath you take from here on out, let’s start learning how to practice Pilates breathing.
Think About How You’re Breathing Right Now
Take a moment to think about how you’re breathing right now. Notice if you feel tension anywhere in your body. Pay attention to whether your belly moves or your chest rises and falls as you breathe.
Try to notice every single detail you can about how you’re breathing.
Breathing for Pain Relief
Pilates breathing is unlike your average breath. The first main difference is that you’re going to pay attention to how you’re breathing and how it feels in your body as you breathe.
So, as you follow the instructions below, make sure to focus on what you’re doing and how it feels as you breathe.
Breathing Into Your Rib Cage
- Take a comfortable seat. Feel your SITs bones (those bones you feel on your bottom when you’re sitting) press down into whatever you’re sitting on.
- Place your hands around the bottom of your ribs so your thumbs are pointing toward your spine and your fingers point toward your belly.
- Feel your bottom ribs. You want to have your bottom ribs angled so they point straight down at your hips and pelvis. (Sometimes, the ribs will angle forward like they’re aiming for your lap. This is especially true for folks with low back pain. If this sounds like you, give a gentle scratch to the small space between the right and left side of your rib cage (just above your belly). Then, try to activate those muscles.
- Breathe in through your nose and notice how your rib cage fills up.
- You want to feel your bottom ribs move when you breathe. This way, you know you’re breathing deep enough.
- Also, you want to feel your rib cage expand three-dimensionally. This means you should feel your ribs open to the front, expand to the sides, and even expand to the back. (Because of the spine, there’s less opportunity for movement in the back of the rib cage, but there should still be some.)
- Exhale through pursed lips as if you’re blowing out candles.
- Envision a midpoint in your abdomen that is totally centered top to bottom, front to back, and left to right.
- Feel all the muscles between your ribs and hips gently hug toward this central spot. Make sure to avoid any sort of squeezing or gripping feelings.
- Keep breathing.
Why Is Breathing for Pain Relief So Special?
When you practice breathing for pain relief, the exhale-through-pursed-lips part helps activate a deep abdominal muscle called the transverse abdominis.
This muscle works as your body’s natural corset. It helps keep your internal organs inside your body, provides support for your other abdominal muscles, and helps keep the space between your ribs and hips.
All three of these tasks impact how your abdominals and other core muscles work, how your body moves, and whether you have pain or feel weak in your hips or low back.
People who have low back or hip pain can often greatly reduce their suffering by practicing this type of breathing and strengthening the transverse abdominis.
In fact, breathing is one of the first pain-relieving exercises I teach in my online course, Spinal Rejuvenation. Click the link to learn how you can use exercise to start relieving your pain today!
For those who have had an abdominal surgery such as an umbilical hernia repair or C-section, this type of breathing is the first exercise you will want to do when you’re getting your body ready to resume your normal activities.
Related: Ready to Exercise After Umbilical Hernia Surgery? Start Here. (These exercises also apply to someone recovering from a C-section or other abdominal surgery.)
A Pilates Breathing Video for Visual Learners
Sometimes, it’s just easier to have someone talk you through what you’re supposed to do. Here’s a video to talk you through breathing for pain relief with Pilates breathing.
So, How Exactly, Do I Use Breathing for Pain Relief?
When you practice Pilates breathing, you’re doing a simple exercise to strengthen your transverse abdominis. Think of using this exercise just like any other core-strengthener.
You can practice this type of breathing on consecutive days and for as long as you want each day.
To give you an idea of how long you could practice for, a Pilates class is normally an hour long and you use this style of breathing for everything you do. That’s not to say that you have to practice breathing for an hour at a time, but you could.
Even a minute or two each day will be extremely beneficial and will produce results.
What matters most is that you’re able to feel your transverse abdominis strengthen and work better throughout the day.
In particular, you should notice better posture without a ton of effort. If you’re searching for other exercises to help strengthen your back, give you better posture, rehabilitate after an injury, or relieve your aches + pains; check out Spinal Rejuvenation.
Related: Want to try out a free sample of Spinal Rejuvenation? Click here and download The Fast + Easy Way to Relieve Hip + Back Pain.