February 24, 2023
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 respiratory muscle. As we breathe in, the diaphragm fills up and expands and gently pushes down against our internal organs, which gently push down on the pelvic floor (PF). On our exhale, the PF naturally contracts, our internal organs gently push back up into place, and our diaphragm comes back to its resting position. Through this movement, the PF naturally expands and contracts. That’s a whole other layer we will 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.
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 transversus abdominis, and deepen our practice.
Before you start you should understand that a proper Kegel includes contracting boththe 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 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 for those who may have hypertonic (tight) pelvic floor muscles.
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 gentle yet strong enough to support your body during whatever movement you are doing.
Lay on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Hands can be on the stomach or place your pointer and middle fingers on your hip bone and move them one inch in and one inch down. This placement may help you feel the deep core (PF + TA) engage.
Now try putting all three steps together!
Some tips to keep in mind!