January 5, 2023

Tight back limiting access to your diaphragmatic breath?

It’s that time of year when the weather is super chilly (depending on where you live) and the ligaments, muscles, and tendons that support your spine tighten causing your body to lock up. We’ve also just recovered from the stressful month of December where we were running around prepping for the holidays and stressed AF. That stress can manifest in many ways and for some people that can mean holding tension in the back.

Whether you’re still trying to recover from the holiday season or you’re living in a super frigid town, you might notice it is harder to access your diaphragm and breathe diaphragmatically.

What is diaphragmatic breathing? It’s breathing into the diaphragm muscle that sits underneath your ribs at the top of the abdominal cavity. When utilized correctly you feel your rib cage expand 360 degrees (front, back, side-to-side) when you inhale. The diaphragm descends down, pushing on your internal organs which push down your pelvic floor allowing the pelvic floor muscle to naturally relax. On an exhale, the pelvic floor recoils, internal organs shift back up into place, and the diaphragm returns to its original position. So the diaphragm and the pelvic floor work in concert together; moving down and up as you breathe.

Stress and tension can hold space in our spine which leads to tightness in the back. This can limit our ability to access the diaphragm and pushes us to breathe into our chest and our abs. If we can’t access the diaphragm and allow it to naturally expand, it can’t optimally work with the pelvic floor.

Spinal mobility drills can aid in diaphragmatic expansion. Here are some moves and active stretches you can tap into prior to your workouts to increase thoracic mobility and access the diaphragm. Here’s the quick protocol:

  • Foam roll the mid-back to loosen up
  • As you stretch, focus on breathing into your lats and feel expansion in the back body
  • Inhale slowly. Exhale and soften into the stretch. Your exhale should be natural and not forced
  • Lastly, don’t hold your breath. Breathe as you move throughout each exercise

The Exercises:

  • Foam Roll Thoracic Spine
  • Cat Cow
  • T-Spine Rotations
  • Half-Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch w/ Lat Reach
  • Side-Lying Open Book

Before your next core or total-body workout, try a few of these moves to bring mobility to your back so you can improve your breathing which sets you up for more optimal performance.

Your trainer,