What Is The Difference Between The Pilates And Yoga Breath?

A common question for Pilates and Yoga beginners is “What is the difference between the Pilates and Yoga breath?” Even regular yogis or pilates enthusiasts may not entirely understand the differences as both can feel quite similar internally during your practices.

From activation to focus, direction and connection, we will explain the differences between Pilates and Yogic breathing so you can utilise each correctly and enhance your practice.


The main difference between the Pilates and Yoga breath is the activation of different parts of the body. Yoga breathing places more emphasis on expanding the belly and then the chest. As you breathe in this way, the front of the body is actively rising and falling in a deep, rhythmic movement.

In Pilates the breath activates the back of the body, as opposed to expanding the belly and the chest. When engaging the Pilates breath, the emphasis is in the lower lobes of the lungs as you actively send the breath into the back of the rib cage.


The focus and intention of the breath can be applied for different reasons. During Pilates, the reason the breath is drawn towards the back of the ribcage is that the practice requires a great focus on the core.

This is especially important for beginners to learn when they are not sure how to keep their core firm during inhalation and exhalation. Often they will extend the belly and chest which causes them to lose core support on the inhalation. When this happens it is much harder to reactive the core on the exhalation.

Focusing on the Pilates breath helps to fully engage the core and keep it engaged throughout your practice.


To engage the breath appropriately, we need to offer the breath direction and guidance. Pilates breathing utilises a three-dimensional breath – meaning you inhale to the front, side and back of the rib cage. In doing so, you direct the breath to the lower lobes of the lungs and into the back of the ribcage on the inhalation.

The exhalation differs significantly for both the Pilates and Yoga breath. The yogic breath flows in and out of the nose. However, the Pilates breath is exhaled through an open mouth – just as you would blow out candles.

The process of this open-mouthed soft exhale allows you to maintain core contraction and core support. Try it yourself! Breathing through the mouth helps to internally activate the pelvic floor muscles and hold the engagement of your core muscles.


Connection is important in any practice. New students need to be aware of how the Pilates and Yoga breath generate different connections. Having this understanding will give beginners the opportunity to explore their practice on a deeper level.

For Yogis, the breath is experienced all over the body. It is sent into each cell of the body. It flows through all parts of the body. The Pilates breath is a central breath. It flows with mindful control and penetrates deep into the core.

Both forms of connection make for a deep and effective practice for both Yoga or Pilates students. Understanding and generating that heightened awareness and control of the Yoga and Pilates breath will allow your practice to flourish, bringing you greater health and a more profound experience with your body.