Breathing is Crucial for Improving Core Posture
Breathing exercises are becoming the hottest new fitness trend for good reason. Your posture has a lot of influence on how well you breathe. The diaphragm is a big muscle and should be trained to function well just like any other muscle. When it does not function optimally, a link in the chain gets weak and other parts of the body have to pick up the slack. Either directly or indirectly via connective tissue, your diaphragm is linked to your core muscles, lumbar spine, thoracic spine, and psoas (hip flexor.) The muscles in your hips and back were not designed to assist in respiration. So when they are forced to help you breathe, they can’t do their true function well and quality of movement suffers.
You take about 20,000 breaths per day. That’s a lot of reps for the diaphragm! When you’re talking core training, breathing exercises must be included in the discussion. As you inhale, your diaphragm drops down. As it lowers, it should gently press the pelvic floor down because they are linked in function. On the exhale, your diaphragm rises as does your pelvic floor. Check out the video for explanation on this piston action.
You may have poor breathing technique if you are constantly stressed, have been pregnant, have slouched posture, and/or have anterior pelvic tilt. Post natal women often have flared ribs and anterior pelvic tilt due to the body naturally making space for the baby. Restoring the pelvis to proper alignment includes more than ab exercises. Breathing exercises should be included in the early stages of “getting back to pre-pregnancy shape.”
Those who are constantly stressed and have hunched spines typically take shallow breaths and can’t exhale fully. For these folks, working on getting all the air out is important. Focus on long exhales through pursed lips to force every last ounce of air out. You may also notice that your shoulders drop down or release some tension which is a good thing if you’re wound up.
Taking a deep belly breath is only part of the breathing equation. Good breathing technique is to have the ribs and belly rise fairly evenly on the inhale. Video yourself or have someone watch you breathe while resting on your back to assess how you breathe.
Your brain may need to reconnect with your breath if your chest/ribs are not rising during inhale. Focus on sending each inhale into your ribs. While laying on your back, try to expand your ribs all the way around. Feel them press outwards and downwards into the floor. This will be difficult at first and will take some time to develop. Be patient.
Remember the pelvic floor muscles are functioning while breathing too. As you exhale, be aware of some low-intensity muscular contraction deep in your belly. You can say, “haaaaaa” or “ssssssssss” to help stimulate the activity of your pelvic floor muscles. On the inhale, those muscles should be relaxed. Train your pelvic floor to contract and relax along with your diaphragm.
Practicing breathing exercises during your cool down is a great way to slow down your nervous system from the workout. It aids the recovery process. However, if you arrive at your workout frazzled from traffic or work, taking five focused breaths before beginning your workout will get you and your body into the right mental space to make the workout effective.
The diaphragm is often taken for granted since it is an involuntary muscle. But it can and should be trained to function well. Add 3 minutes of breathing exercises to your workouts and notice how your posture improves.