Many people have heard of diaphragmatic breathing (also known as “belly breathing”) and its role in the promotion of relaxation and calm. Today, I’m going to tweak the instructions just a bit in order to integrate a sensory connection between the pelvic floor (the “floor” of the core) and the breathing diaphragm (the “ceiling” of the core).
Here is how diaphragmatic breathing is done with a focus on using and sensing the deep core muscles. I call it Core Breathing, and it’s a fantastic way to simultaneously calm the nervous system and energize the muscles of the core.
Core Breathing Practice:
- Sit comfortably or lie down, and relax your shoulders.
- Place hands below your bellybutton, fingertips lightly touching.
- Breathe deeply through your nose and into your abdomen so that your belly gently expands. Picture a balloon in your abdominal area, filling with air and expanding three-dimensionally (to the front, to the back, and downward). You should feel your fingers draw slightly apart. Sense a feeling of gentle downward pressure on your pelvic floor as you allow your belly AND your pelvic floor muscles to soften, relax, and expand. At this point, your breathing diaphragm is moving downward.
- Now slowly exhale through your nose or mouth. As you do so, picture the balloon deflating and gently pull your abdominal muscles inward and your pelvic floor muscles inward and upward (i.e. do a gentle kegel). This should not feel like an intense contraction of the core muscles, just a gentle inward pull of the deep abdominals, and a very small/gentle upward movement of your pelvic floor. At this point, your breathing diaphragm is moving upward.
- Note: Throughout this practice your chest and shoulders should be quite still. Your lower ribs and the abdomen will be the primary movers. In time, you’ll begin to sense the pelvic floor’s gentle movement as well.
- Keep breathing, picturing the balloon expanding as you breathe in and deflating as you breathe out. It may seem counterintuitive to let your core muscles relax and expand as you breathe in, and to gently pull your core muscles “in and up” as you breathe out. However, once you get the hang of it, you will feel a sense of calm and relaxation as you practice this delicious (and natural) breathing technique.
This is a lovely exercise to do regularly throughout the day. Although most people find it easiest to do while lying down, you can also do it while seated or even while standing as it becomes easier and more natural for you. Shoot for 30 second “breath breaks” every 1-2 hours and give yourself the gift of relaxation as well as an improved mind-body connection.
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