Pilates Breathing – lateral thoracic breathing

Knowing how to take a full, deep breath is true life skill. Its a very important process that some people find difficult at first. When doing Pilates exercises we engage the deep abdominals and so it is important to fucus the breathing into the rib area. This is called lateral thoracic breathing. It focuses the mind, release tension, and ebabling you to maintain the contraction of the transverus abdominis and keep the shoulders stablised. Image

A full breath cycle spreads life-giving oxygen throughout the body, gets rid of waste gasses like carbon dioxide, and stimulates the spine and internal organs.


Place both hands on your ribs, with the heels of your hands at the side of the rib cage and your middle fingers meeting in the middle.

Breath in – focus the breathing into the ribcage and feel the sides and back of the ribcage expand and your fingertips come apart.

Breat out – feel the ribcage move back towards the middle, bringing your fingertips back together.

Avoid lifting the shoulders and creating tension in the neck and shoulders.

Sarah Pennicott

Personal Trainer & Pilates Instructor




Neutral Spine – what is it and how do you find it?


The Spine:

The human spine is composed of 26 individual bony masses, 24 of those are bones called vertebrae. The vertebrae are stacked one on top of the other and form the main part of the spine running from the base of the skull to the pelvis. At the base of the spine, is a bony plate called the sacrum which is made of 5 fused vertebrae. The sacrum forms the back part of the pelvis. At the bottom of the sacrum is a small set of 4 partly fused vertebrae, the coccyx or tailbone. Adding the fused and partly fused bones of the sacrum and coccyx to the 24 vertebrae, the spine has 33 bones all together.

The spine is labeled in 3 sections: the cervical spine, the thoracic spine and the lumbar spine. Starting from the top there are 7 cervical vertebrae, 12 thoracic vertebrae, and 5 lumbar vertebrae.


Neutral Spine:

Neutral spine is the natural position of the spine when all 3 curves of the spine — cervical (neck), thoracic (middle) and lumbar (lower) — are present and in good alignment. This is the strongest position for the spine when we are standing or sitting.  Knowing how to find the neutral spine position is crucial for doing many Pilates exercises correctly.

The Basic Move:

Basic Position Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Make sure that your legs are parallel with your heels, toes, knees, and hips all in one line. Let your arms rest at your sides.

Relax Relax your body, including your shoulders, neck, and jaw. Allow your back to rest on the floor, without effort. Your rib cage is dropped with the lower ribs released to the floor as well.

Breathe Deeply Bring your breath all the way into your body, allowing it to move into your back and the sides of your rib cage, and all the way down to the pelvis.

Pelvic Tilt Exhale and use your abs to press your lower spine into the floor in a pelvic tuck. Inhale to release.
Exhale and pull your lower spine up, away from the floor creating a pelvic tilt. Inhale to release.
Many people habitually have their spine in one of these two positions, tucked or tilted. To be in neutral spine, you want to be in between these positions, with the lower abs flat and just a slight, natural curve of the lower spine off the floor. Use the following image to establish neutral spine.

Balanced Pelvic Placement Imagine that there is a cup of water sitting on your lower abdomen, just a couple of inches below your belly button. Allow your abdominal muscles to drop in toward your spine, making your belly flatter.  Remember that you don’t want the water to spill, so your pelvis cannot be tipped forward or tucked under. 

Body Scan You should now be relaxed with your body in a balanced alignment on the floor. Your breath is deep and full, and your abdominals drop toward the floor. The natural curves of the neck and lumbar (lower) spine, however, are away from the floor. Be sure that your lower spine is not pressed into the floor. That would be a pelvic tilt.

Sarah Penicott

Personal Trainer & Pilates Instructor






Being a Pilates Teacher, I am slightly biased, but let me explain why Pilate is so good for us.

Joseph Pilates was a ballet dancer, but struggled with the intense physical commitment that went with it, so he invented an exercise regime to strengthen his body to allow him to cope with the pressures presented by his ballet training.


Firstly, there are 6 core principles:  Breathing, Centring, Control, Concentration, Flowing, Movement, Precision and more recently Awareness, Stamina and Relaxation.This means you do every exercise slowly, in an exact position, always extending from your middle which stays strong and static, and always with the effort on the out breath.

Secondary, the areas of the body you work are important. Traditionally at the gym we move our head and shoulders back and forth off the mat to work our abdominals, but how often do we make that movement in real life? Never, so why do we spend so much time training it? The answer is the stronger the abdominals are, the more they hold in the flabby bits.

The Transverse Abdominus (TVA) is a very large muscle that resembles a tin can with the back attached to the spine. It ensures we can stand up without falling over, or sit up without flopping sideways. How often do we do this in real life….always. Pilates trains the TVA which in turn strengthens the muscles, helping back pain, hip pain, and even knee and ankle pain by making us stand correctly.

At the bottom of the TVA are your pelvic floor muscles, which are also focused in Pilates, which are really important for giving us good posture and protecting our hip joint in particularly.

As well as training these core muscles, Pilates uses stretching and mobility exercises to improve your posture. It teaches you to balance to help strengthen core and thus build your protective inner barrier.  The power of breathing in your exercises also helps you to concentrate and relax.

Sarah Pennicott

Personal Trainer & Pilates Instructor




Hi Everyone,

Hope everyone is well. This year seems to be going very quickly.  I hope you have all enjoyed the sunny weather we have had over the past few weeks.

Here is an update on whats going on at MasterFitness this month.


This month at Pilates, I am focusing on using bands. This adds a little more resistance while also using your own body weight.

I’m looking to start running some day time Pilate’s classes around Newbury and Thatcham once a venue can be confirmed. Pilates is becoming extremly popular, so I’m hoping I can add some more classes.

Each class is only limited to 10 spaces. 6 week rolling course £36

  • Tuesday evenings @ 7.45pm @ FrancisBaileySchool, White Hall, Thatcham
  • Wednesday evenings @ 7pm @ Frank Hutchings Hall,DunstanPark, Thatcham

I also teach at Donnington Valley Spa if you are a member on Fridays @12pm– 45 minutes class.

1-2-1Pilates is available at my house or at your home. Please contact me for available times and prices.


I am having wonderful results from clients that are loosing weight and inches.

I use a range of equipments from resistance bands, free weights, BOSU, VIPR, Ab roller, punch bags, medicine balls and also using your own body weights.

FREE consultations available where I take your blood pressure and also understand your requirements and will design a programme around you. Fitness reports and target reports are given to you with on going 6 weekly reports. You can train in my garage where I have a gym area, at your home or a local park.

Limited spaces now left in the evenings.

  • Tuesday evenings @9.15pm
  • Wednesday evenings @8.15pm

 Day time spaces are available: Monday to Fridays


I’m looking to start a new 6 week bootcamp course on Friday mornings.

  • £30 for 6 sessions with a nutritional advice emailed out once a week.

Please email if you are interested in coming along.  I’ve had a lots of interest to start Saturday mornings bootcamps, but unfortunately, at this time, I am unable to do this due to other commitments, but I will keep you posted should this change over the summer months.


I teach Aqua Aerobics on Monday evenings at Kennet Lesiure Centre. @ 8pm. You don’t need to be a member to come along, just make sure you arrive early to grab a space.

 Mixture of 70s disco and chart music.


I haven’t decided what I will be writing about this month.  If you have any ideas, do let me know and I might use your idea.

You can also find me on Facebook for daily updates  http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/MASTER-FITNESS-PERSONAL-TRAINER/117149741672024



Sarah Pennicott

Personal Trainer & Pilates Teacher