The foundation of our workouts at TFB, whether you’re pregnant or postpartum, is diaphragmatic breathing. Asking yourself, “What’s that?” Keep reading.
At one point in your life you were breathing correctly, using your diaphragm, with your rib cage expanding 360 degrees. Somewhere along the way your body decided to switch from breathing into your diaphragm to using your lungs; hence your chest moving up and down.
WHY IS THIS SO IMPORTANT?
Diaphragmatic breathing not only strengthens your abdominals, but did you know this pattern of breathing also benefits your pelvic floor? Let me explain.
Your diaphragm is a dome-shaped muscle that sits underneath the lower part of the rib cage and is your primary breathing muscle. As we breathe in air and fill our diaphragm, allowing the muscle to expand, it gently pushes down against our organs, towards our pelvic floor (PF). The PF muscles then lower every so slightly, on this eccentric portion of our breath. On our exhale, the concentric, the pelvic floor muscles rise, our organs gently push back up, and our diaphragm draws in. Through this movement, the pelvic floor naturally expands and contracts. That’s a whole other layer we should bring awareness to, and we’ll dive into that more in a later post, but for now let’s focus on the foundation which is properly breathing using your diaphragm.
- Start in a position that feels most comfortable for you with hands at your rib cage. With new clients I suggest lying supine with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. (Supine means on your back). Others find success sitting cross-legged, on their knees with a sturdy pillow or foam roller between their legs, or in a quadruped position (on hands and knees). In any position, make sure you lift up your butt cheeks so you are sitting on your sitz bones. Hands can be placed on each side of your rib cage if you are sitting.
- Next is finding a neutral alignment with your pelvis and spine. Whatever position you are in rock your hips forward and back. Find where neutral is. Your goal is to find the spot where you butt untucks, but you are forcing a low arched back. If you are on your back, allow your low back to have a natural arch. If you are sitting on your knees, make sure you are sitting up tall, but not leaning too far back.
- Take a couple breaths and bring awareness to where you are breathing. Is your chest mainly rising and falling? Is your belly? Take another couple breaths and then focus on breathing into your diaphragm.
- Take a nice slow 4 or 5 count inhale and feel your rib cage widen and move into your hands. Exhale slowly through your mouth (or nose) and feel your rib cage and your fingertips draw back together. Allow the diaphragm to initiate your inhale and the overflow of air may go into your belly.
- Practice this as often as you can. I suggest
first thing in the morning for those that have a couple minutes to themselves,
before or after a workout, or at night after the baby has gone to sleep. Start off with doing 20-50 breaths. From there you can incorporate it into your daily lifestyle.
*TIP #1: Remember that your diaphragm does not just move laterally, but anteriorly and posteriorly as well (360 degrees); the latter which can be tricky so if you need to, adjust your hands so they are front and back of your ribcage. You can even try tying a thin long scarf or theraband around your ribs so when you breath you can feel the band tighten 360 degrees.
*TIP #2: Diaphragmatic breathing requires proper posture to allow for a deep breathe and movement of your pelvic floor muscles. Untuck your butt, chest is open, and shoulders are back and down. Ribs are over your hips. If any part of your posture is off, you shorten your breath, and your pelvic floor won’t function (expand/contract) the way it should.
As I mentioned, this is just one part of the entire breath work. Stay tuned for my next post, where we continue breathing into the diaphragm, but bring awareness to the pelvic floor and transverse abdominal muscles, and deepen our practice.