How to Do Lateral Breathing in Pilates: Tips, Technique, Correct Form, Benefits and Common Mistakes

Lateral breathing in Pilates (Image via Pexels/Photo by Thirdman)
Lateral breathing in Pilates (Image via Pexels/Photo by Thirdman)

An important technique of breathing is lateral breathing in Pilates. Although there are other techniques of breathing involved in Pilates, this one is particularly emphasized upon due to its benefits. It helps in engaging the lower belly and uses the rib cage and back muscles to complete the inhale and exhale.

Let’s begin with understanding how to properly execute the lateral breathing in Pilates.

The correct form of doing lateral breathing in Pilates

Now, to ensure you’re doing this correctly, make sure you’re sitting comfortably. It’s important to keep yourself relaxed before you initiate the technique.

  • Sit comfortably and place your hands on each side, around the rib cage.
  • Breathe in from your nose. As you do this, you will feel the rib cage expanding. Take a breath deep enough to feel the rib cage against your hands.
  • Exhale slowly and feel the rib cage contract.
  • Continue this process until you properly feel the rib cage expanding and contracting.

In this breathing technique, your lower belly is engaged throughout. The reason this is known as lateral breathing in Pilates is because the technique expands the rib cage laterally. On the other hand, normal breathing is an up and down motion.

Tips to do the lateral breathing in Pilates better

Even though you’ve understood how to execute this, here are a few tips that will help you do it better when you start.

Keep your middle fingers as the focus point

Ideally, you should be in a position where the middle fingers move apart when you inhale and come together when you exhale. This will help you to ensure you’re breathing laterally as required.


Use a towel or an exercise band

Wrap the towel around your rib cage and cross it in the front. Now, when you inhale, you’ll feel the towel expand and squeeze the towel when you exhale. This will ensure you’re putting enough emphasis on the lateral movement.

Benefits of lateral breathing in Pilates

Just knowing how to do it and how to improve upon it will not be motivating enough for you to include this in your routine. Hence, it’s good to understand the following benefits:

  • Removes stale air from the lungs
  • Increases overall blood circulation
  • Improves form for beginners and advanced level individuals
  • Protects the spine
  • Makes it easier to perform other Pilates’ exercises better

Common mistakes

You won’t be able to perfect this technique the day you include it in your routine. However, the more you practice, the better you’ll become. Nevertheless, there are some common mistakes in lateral breathing in Pilates that you should be aware of.

Breathing normally

Typically, we breathe in an up-and-down motion, which is diaphragmatic breathing. It does not engage the core muscles or lower belly at any point.

However, lateral breathing needs to engage the lower belly. This is an important part of Pilates altogether. It is important to maintain a muscle-mind connection with your abdominal muscles and use lateral motion.

Forcing the lungs

The idea of breathing exercises or techniques is to keep yourself comfortable. You must never force yourself to over expand your lungs during such exercises.

Constantly using the lateral movement

As mentioned, the lateral breathing in Pilates keeps the core muscles engaged. Therefore, you should never make this the usual pattern of breathing. Keep it reserved for workout routines, but do not make this the normal pattern of breathing.


Not being relaxed

If you do not relax your upper body, such as your shoulders, you won’t be able to keep the movement limited to your rib cage. The idea is for the rib cage to move laterally, and not the entire upper body.

Not ensuring safety

When you’re trying a new breathing technique like the lateral breathing in Pilates, you need to be completely aware of what you’re doing. A primary reason for this being that it engages the core muscles and rib cage. Both are sensitive parts of our body, and you must not overdo it. You have to stop if you feel unwell at any point.

Bottom line

Lateral breathing in Pilates should be something you include in your daily routine. Not only will it help with blood circulation, but it will also help in improving your performance level for other exercises.

If you want, you can make this a part of the warm-up you’re doing before starting your workout session. It will help with preparing your body for the more intense exercises that will follow the warm-up. At all times, exercise caution to prevent any form of unwanted injury.

Edited by Sabine Algur
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