The foundations - breath, pelvic floor and the inner core
Everyone has heard of the core before. But what is it really and how does it effect your function?
The core is a series of muscles designed to support you and keep you feeling strong and steady. It should be able to move through a full range of motion and react to your movements in a reflective, effective manner.
There are two different areas of the core. The outer core (consisting of your vanity muscles - six pack anyone?) and the inner core. The inner core are the deeper muscles that effects your function the most. We will mostly be focusing on your inner core muscles and how they can work together to keep you feeling stable and strong.
Brief anatomy lesson of the inner core (stick with me)
We want the rib cage and the pelvic floor to work together to create a strong, reflective pelvic floor and core. THIS CAN TAKE TIME, especially if old patterns have been there for a while. Be patient with the process!
When we inhale two things are happening:
the rib cage expands in a 3 dimensional way (think of an umbrella opening)
the pelvic floor will relax or lengthen (think of the direction of bearing down but without the force behind it)
When we exhale two things are happening:
Our ribs come together after being expanded and together (however they do not collapse or get “pulled down”)
Our pelvic floor gently contracts, or comes in and up for support.
How do I do this?
BREATH AND DIRECTION
Another way to think about it is the direction of your breath and what it feels like to engage your deep abdominal muscles (TA) and pelvic floor.
With the inhale, the air goes from the ribs DOWN into the belly and pelvis
With the exhale, the air goes UP from the belly/pelvis to the ribs
TRY this – put your hands on your belly and cough. Do you feel your belly tighten or your hands pull away from you? This is your deep abdominal area engaging
Now pretend you have a birthday cake in front of you with a 1000 candles.
Inhale - feeling your ribs expand.
Exhale - and gently blow out the candles
**as you do this, see if you can feel your lower/deep abdominal area engage and pull IN and your breath move UP as you do this** (like the breath is following arrows moving up)
CUES FOR RELAXING THE PELVIC FLOOR (for when you inhale) -
**Sometimes people have been taught to Kegel (or contract) and they don’t know how to relax the pelvic floor (or do a reverse Kegel)
Here are some cues/visuals for relaxing the pelvic floor (or a reverse Kegel) :
*Take a big, three-dimensional belly/ribcage expanding breath. Towards the end of the inhale, you may feel the relaxation of your pelvic floor or pressure building into the perineum. Put your hand at your perineum (or simply sit on your hand) to see if you can feel this
*Imagine the ebb and flow of a jelly fish movement or an umbrella opening and closing. This is how a healthy pelvic floor works. Both for relaxation and squeezing
A FEW NOTES:
*In cases when the pelvic floor needs to be strengthened, we add the extra tension at the end for a Kegel. However, this might not be appropriate for everyone at first (especially if the pelvic floor is too tight).
*In order to get the benefits of a Kegel it is important to be able to do a reverse Kegel (or lengthening of the pelvic floor)
A commonly held spot of tension is the respiratory diaphragm or solar plexus. It is where the diaphragm is or right at the bottom of your breast bone (But not on the bone itself). Along with the pelvis the diaphragm creates a “parenthesis” around the inner core muscles.
The movement of the diaphragm is important for the pelvic floor and other inner core muscles to function properly.
Many people do not allow the diaphragm and ribcage to move very much in day-to-day activities. The result is tension and shallow, chest breathing. It can create increased tension throughout body, including the pelvic floor muscles.
Sitting or lying on the floor, take a few breaths in and out. Notice if your ribs are moving at all. Not sure?
Place your fingers lightly around the front of your ribs and gently wrap your thumbs towards your back. Now try taking a breath again.
Can you feel your fingers move apart from each other?
Can you feel your thumb or back come closer to the ground?
Imagine your ribs are opening up with each inhale, like an umbrella. With each exhale, the umbrella is closing. You should feel your fingers come together with the exhale. If you can’t feel the movement right away, try visualizing it. Over time this will become easier and more automatic.