Breathwork certainly has received a lot of attention in the fitness and health scene in the past few years, and for good reason. Diaphragmatic breathing, which involves allowing your diaphragm and abdominal muscles to move with your inhales and exhales, has been shown to have positive mental and physical health outcomes. When it comes to strengthening the muscles in your core in order to move well and prevent injury, your breath is an essential piece of the puzzle. Creating and maintaining proper intra-abdominal pressure helps protect your spine, and this pressure has a lot to do with your breath.
When you breathe in, your goal is to use your primary inspiration muscles. These include your diaphragm and the muscles that connect your ribs. Instead, many people use more of their secondary muscles – the muscles in and around your neck and chest – to breathe in, which can cause tightness in the shoulders, tension in the neck, and even hand numbness. By focusing on utilizing your primary inspiration muscles when you breathe in, along with gently bracing your abdominals and engaging your pelvic floor when you exhale, you are setting yourself up with a breathing pattern that supports you both at rest and while exercising, keeping your body both efficient and safe.
Have you ever held your breath during a tough exercise or while lifting something heavy? It can be a natural response in the body. By mindfully incorporating a diaphragmatic breath (inhaling to prepare, exhaling on the exertion), you not only protect yourself from back injuries, but you also help keep your intra-abdominal pressure regulated to avoid injuries like hernias, pelvic organ prolapse, and diastasis recti. If that doesn’t motivate you enough, your deep breath helps you engage and utilize your abdominals more than if you hold your breath or only breathe with your secondary inspiration muscles, which helps your core be even stronger.
Correcting a shallow breathing pattern can take time, so be patient and practice daily to establish a new pattern. To practice, find a comfortable place to sit with your spine tall or lie on your back. Place your hands on the sides of your rib cage, thumbs behind you and four fingers wrapping around front. Take an inhale, intentionally expanding into your hands, allowing your inhale to travel down and gently expand your belly and relax your pelvic floor. Your diaphragm will move down along with it. As you exhale, think about gently guiding your hands in, bracing your belly, and gently lifting and contracting your pelvic floor. Repeat 10 times.
Your breath is truly the foundation of everything you do, and when you establish a proper breathing pattern, it can help with many other processes and movements of the body as well, allowing your core muscles to fire for stabilization and support.
If you feel like you need more help with coordinating your breath, core, and pelvic floor, reach out to us today to schedule a FREE discovery visit!