We hear so much about the ‘core’ these days. We know from all this information that a strong core is what we desire. It has been promised that a strong core will bring all sorts of health and beauty benefits to us. So why is it that sometimes we can work so hard at so called ‘core’ exercises yet never make our bellies flat or feel like we can do everything we desire with our strong cores?
Often times we are using only the middle or lower half of our core for exercise and postural support throughout the day. This would be like trying to do a push up without using your arms! Many of us have unknowingly adopted breath holding or shortened breath patterns in our stressed out, go-go-go lives. This type of breathing habit makes it difficult to use our diaphragm throughout the day and with exercise.
Why is the Diaphragm so important? When we inhale, the diaphragm actually moves downward and out. It starts out with a dome shape and it flattens out at the end of our inhale to make room for our lungs that are full of air. This creates a pressure gradient in the abdomen so that when we exhale, our pelvic floor and belly muscles naturally want to draw upward and inward (what we are trying to achieve with ‘core’ work). If this sounds a bit like patting your head, chewing gum, and talking all at the same time you are not alone! Practice coordinating this movement in sitting throughout the day. When it becomes more natural, add it into your fitness routine. I have included a step by step tutorial below to help coordinate your core. Bottom line- whenever you are doing any exercise, JUST BREATHE!
STEP 1: Take a seat in a firm chair where you can place both feet on the floor. You need to sit towards the front half of the chair.
STEP 2: Find your neutral spine by slowly tilting your pelvis forward and tucking it back until you find the perfect spot where you are right on top of your SITS bones (those two little boney points on your butt). If you are too far forward you will not feel them. If you are too far back it will feel like you are sitting on your tailbone. RELAX your shoulders!
STEP 3: Inhale deeply feeling your belly and ribs rise. The ribs should move outward like they are stretching out the band on your sports bra. You may also feel your pelvic floor muscles (the tissue right between the SITS bones) relax or stretch a bit here. Try to avoid movement in the shoulders and upper chest. A little is OK, but most of this should come from the lower ribs and belly.
STEP 4: Slowly exhale beginning to draw your pelvic floor muscles and belly button upward and inward. Feel as thought the ribs are ‘knitting’ together. For the Pelvic Floor- think about if you were trying to pick up marbles with your vagina but avoiding squeezing your butt!
STEP 5: Relax and congratulate yourself! And, continue practicing throughout your day!
Dr. Megan Anderson is a Physical Therapist and Yoga Instructor specializing in women’s health and Pelvic Floor Dysfunction. She loves teaching and sharing her passion to empower women to live their lives on their own terms, free of physical limitations and pain. Her self named PT practice brings therapy, wellness, and yoga services home to her clients to promote comfort and flexibility. www.meganandersonpt.com