BREATHING. NOT JUST ABOUT PELVIC FLOOR.
I love all things breath. Perhaps because I have lived with panic disorder since I was a child. I am absolutely fascinated with how our breathing has a flow on effect to even our standing posture. Breath-work and control of our breath plays a huge role within our Studio and is a fundamental that it always referred back to. It has lead me to complete pelvic health training with Centre for Women’s Fitness along with chronic pain management and Pilates elder training workshops centered around their interpretations of breath. Our breath is connected to the health of our diaphragm muscle, pelvic floor, the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest), our posture, the lymphatic system and over all well-being.
Both women and men have pelvic floors and we can all learn some effective ways to condition our pelvic floor for optimal function which also means allowing it to relax.
The body has many diaphragms beginning with the arches of the feet, pelvic floor, respiratory diaphragm, the throat, roof of the mouth and base of the skull. If you stand up and close your eyes (to feel), as you take a breath in through the nose you may start to notice a sensation of being heavier to the floor. This is because as you breath in your diaphragms are relaxing and doming down. As you breath out you may notice the sensation of ‘lifting’ away from the floor as the diaphragms dome up.
Lets take this to some breath work for pelvic floor health.
Lower Pelvic Floor
Laying on your back, supported under the head as necessary (*note if you are pregnant having the heart above the pelvis is optimal and you should feel comfortable. Later stage pregnancies see below for QUADRUPED options.
Have the knees bent with feet hip width apart and place the fingers lightly tips on the sit bones, located just at the base of the glutes (the base of your pelvis).
With your tongue placed gently in the roof of your mouth, take a breath in through the nose visualizing moving the breath between the sit bones and feeling them expand (this doming sensation is the bowl of the pelvic floor relaxing).
Gently breathe out through the mouth visualizing the sit bones coming together
Repeat desired number of times.
Upper Pelvic Floor
In the same position now place the finger tips on the hip bones and about in inch in, you may feel a band of muscle moving under the fingers in particular as you breath out.
With your tongue placed gently in the roof of your mouth, take a breath in through the nose visualizing moving the breath between the hip bones and feeling them expand.
Gently breathe out through the mouth visualizing the hip bones drawing closer together (*here is where you may feel that muscle contract, your lower transverse or deep abdominal support.
In the same position now place the hands around the lower portion of your ribcage, with the thumb towards the back.
With your tongue placed gently in the roof of your mouth, take a breath in through the nose feeling the ribcage expand into your hands. It can be nice to take some time here and add unilateral (left right breathing) as this can benefit the muscles and flexibility of the ribcage.
Gently breathe out through the mouth feeling the ribcage/waist narrow away from the hands as you gently bring the ribcage to the centre of the body.
In the same position now place the hands palms up just under the back of the ribcage.
With your tongue placed gently in the roof of your mouth, take a breath in through the nose feeling the ribcage expand backwards into your hands
Gently breathe out through the mouth allowing the ribcage to relax towards the mat
Bringing it together
In the same position now place your hands on the lower abdomen.
With your tongue placed gently in the roof of your mouth, take a breath in through the nose feeling the abdomen expand into your hands
Gently breathe out through the mouth allowing the abdominals to relax towards the spine without pressing.
Towards the end of the breath out, gently drawl the abdominals towards the spine, followed by connecting the sit bones, hip bones and lower ribcage
In essence this last stage it is drawing those bony landmarks of the pelvis to the centre of the abdomen. Without force or tension, using the breath.
Breath in Quadruped (4 point kneeling) If you cannot lay on your back
If you are pregnant the above breath work can also be done in a comfortable quadruped position (*hands and knees) or over a fit ball or other comfortable base that allows you to rest on the forearms should your writs, arms or shoulder not comfortable tolerate being on your hands.
Pelvic Tilts - (not a bridge or glute squeeze)
These are a nice gentle way to combine you breathing with a little movement of the pelvis along with stretching the lower back. Can be done with a soft 20cm (deflated) ball behind the pelvis, or a rolled up towel.
In the same supine position as above hands on the pelvis OR in a Quadruped position.
Legs, glutes, hips and belly button softly relaxed
With your tongue placed gently in the roof of your mouth, take a breath in through the nose.
Gently start to breathe out through the mouth and as you do tilt your tailbone towards your pubic bone, making sure you are not squeezing your bottom or your legs or your belly. Just allow the pelvic bone to rock backwards.
Start to breath in through your nose as you rock your pelvis back to neutral and then reach the pubic bone forward toward the feet (rocking forward. *note if you have a contraindication to extension of your lumbar spine, stick to neutral and tilting back).
Disclaimer: Please consult with your GP before beginning any form of exercise. Please use your own judgement with regards to your body's needs as to the suitability of any movement.