Building on part one (Diaphragmatic Breathing – aka: DB); diaphragmatic
breathing with core activation involves bringing awareness to your pelvic floor
and transverse abdominal muscles and incorporating them into your
When I train new clients, I
break this entire process down into three steps. First being, getting
comfortable with breathing into the diaphragm (see previous post here). When that happens we then
incorporate steps two and three.
Step 2 - Pelvic Floor Activation (Kegel)
- Before you start you
should understand that a proper Kegel includes contracting both the front and back of your
pelvic floor (vaginal and spinchter muscles). Think of preventing the flow of
urine and passing gas at the same time. Second, the act of a Kegel is a two-part process. It’s
not just a squeeze, but a squeeze and a lift. Some cues may be trying to pull a tampon up, sucking a milkshake
through a straw, or imagining your PF muscles as an elevator and you’re trying
to go to the second or third floor. So squeeze front and back, first, then
lift the muscles. Doing this should fire up your deepest core muscles; the
transverse abdominals which is what you contract next (step 3). Lastly, and
most importantly, is the relaxation of the PF muscles. A strong contraction is
fantastic, but you need to release and relax the muscles just as well so you
should feel somewhat of an expansion or widening the of the muscles. The PF
muscles contract and release the same as any other muscles of your body. Just
like a biceps curl, you contract the muscles and bring your hands up to your
shoulders and then fully extend and stretch the muscles and bring the arms down
to your side. You wouldn’t go three thirds of the way down as a release and
contract again, would you? Same with your PF muscles. Becoming aware of the relaxation
component is especially important during the last couple weeks of pregnancy as
it can be help during labor.
Step 3 - Transverse Abdominal Activation.
- This is a gentle deep
core contraction and wrapping of the abdominals from pelvis to rib cage. Some
might think they need to brace as they would in CrossFit or any other style of
strength training, however, your contraction shouldn’t feel so restricting. It’s
about a 15-20% contraction. It’s gentle yet strong enough to support your body
during whatever movement you are doing.
Assume the same position you did when you practiced basic diaphragmatic breathing. Your hands can be placed in several spots. Start with
one hand on the stomach and one on the chest, then hands at the rib
cage/diaphragm area, to front and back of rib cages, and lastly your hands on
your lower stomach. For this position, it's best to lay on your back. Place pointer and middle fingers on your hip bone and move
them one inch in and one inch down. The first three placements help you feel
the diaphragm and the last one helps you feel the transverse abdominals turn on
once you perform a Kegel.
Now try putting all three steps together!
- Inhale nice and slow for 4-5 counts into your diaphragm, relaxing your pelvic floor muscles.
- Initiate an exhale through your mouth.
- Kegel (squeeze & lift) then gently contract your transverse abdominal muscles.
Some tips to keep in mind!
- Feel the contraction start in your lower abdominals and then wrap around your torso. Your goal is to initiate the activation in your lower abdominal region. Personally, this was the hardest for me as I always contracted my upper
abdominals first which actually puts pressure on the pelvic floor; opposite of
what we are aiming to do.
- I suggest clients try this breathe work in various
positions: sitting on a stability ball, kneeling with or without a cushion in
between their legs, in child’s pose, or even standing.
- As in my previous post, proper alignment is key. Ribs over hips. Rib cage is down and not flared as you inhale.
- Do not squeeze the glutes or tilt the hips when you
perform a Kegel. Your glutes should remain relaxed and your pelvic should stay stable
and not rock.