Whatever the case, I noticed I was correcting breathing patterns but was having to spend a lot of time integrating those patterns into core stability strategies. And in order to breathe easier and better, there was lots of attention to getting the upper back and ribs moving better, as restrictions in those areas makes it harder for the diaphragm to work. And while treatment is very focused to each individual, there tended to be a pattern to what exercises I was giving. And so Breathe, Stretch and Move incorporates the basic principles of better breathing - low, slow, diaphragmatic (belly ) breathing, with various movement patterns. The stretching component will help with traditionally tight areas - like the chest muscles (the pecs), the low back area, the neck and upper back. We will use breathing to help mobilize some of those areas so that we get the ribs moving easier. The move component will incorporate progressive core stability strategies in a way that participants are still able to maintain efficient breathing strategies.
What tends to happen with traditional core strengthening programs at the gym, is that in an effort to be exciting, they leave out the basic steps of engaging the deep core muscles. The result is that people often "brace" or hold their breath and push down with their diaphragm and hold their tummy muscles tight. This can be disastrous for pelvic floor muscles (beware of this new moms!). This class will focus on the basics, using the diaphragm (breathing) to coordinate the muscles of the core - see this post that discusses the interaction of these muscles.
So I will leave you with this test to see if you can Breathe, Stretch and Move:
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and your arms at 90 degrees (so fingers pointed to the ceiling)
- Breathe in and allow your arms to move over your head trying to get your hands to the floor. Notice your ribs and low back - do your ribs flare out a lot, or your low back arch a lot? You should notice that all of your ribs expand with the movement and your lower back will extend a little bit, but not too much. You should also notice that you can easily breathe into your belly in this position.
- Now, breathe out as you bring your arms back down by your sides. You should be able to maintain a soft breath as you bring your arms down, and you should notice the muscle of your pelvic floor and lower abdomen tense. It should not feel like you are breathing out forcefully and that your ribs are being forced down by tight abdominal muscles.
- This time, lie on your back with your legs straight. Put your fingers on the front of your hips (just above your pockets). Lift one leg straight off the ground a few inches. If you have good core stability and breathing strategies, you will notice that you don't have to hold your breath, your hip bones stay relatively level (not dipping down on one side) and that it isn't hard to lift that leg. If this is a hard exercise, then likely you are not able to coordinate tasks of breathing and stability!