What is the one thing I would want any woman to know about how to better prepare her body for pregnancy as well as postpartum recovery? One answer: DEEP CORE BREATHING.
Deep Core Breathing is a technique that involves the entire core muscles from the rectus abdominals to the ever so important transverse abdominals as well as the pelvic floor. (Yes, in a way you are performing a kegel with deep core breathing). The beauty of this method is its numerous benefits: general strengthening of the core muscles, specific engagement of the transverse abdominal muscle, prevention of lower back pain during pregnancy and postpartum, appropriate engagement of core muscles during exercise, prepping for the birthing process, and post baby belly recovery. I like to think of deep core breathing as the basis for all of a women’s movement regardless of her stage; thus, it’s an awesome thing to master.
The 2-count breakdown:
- In a seated, standing, or side lying position, take a slow and controlled inhale through the nose. Visualize the nose as being one side of a slinky and the pelvic floor as the other side. As you inhale, imagine the slinky being pulled from opposite ends. This will result in the pelvic floor to feel extended or pushed out. During the inhale, your stomach will naturally expand and rib cage will pull apart; however, the emphasis should be on the vertical up and down sensation of the breath rather than the push out of the belly.
- In the exhale, push out the air through either the nose or the mouth. Exhaling through the mouth, is sometimes more effective in exercise or deep practice situations. Again, imagine the slinky. The slinky should recoil during the exhale. Thus, the air will be pushed out of the nose, the pelvic floor will engage and feel a tightening and lifting, and the transverse abdominals (the deepest muscles that wrap around the core) will pull up and it. The result will look like a sucking in of the belly. If pregnant, the cue during exhaling can sometimes be referred to as hugging the baby. Repeat a few rounds.
Practice deep core breathing daily. When the alarm clock goes off and you need a bit to wake up… go into deep core breathing. During stressful moments in the day, pull out this trick. When in the car, do it for one song. In the shower and washing your hair?… Focus on a few rounds of this method. EXERCISING…. Deep core breathing should be practiced throughout the entire workout regardless of the stage of motherhood. (I have even coached my husband on this method during his workout!)
For pregnancy, deep core breathing should be utilized throughout an entire workout. For example, squats and lunges are that more effective (not to mention safer) with engaging the entire core block. During a squat or lunge, inhale while going down into the squat/lunge. Before beginning to go back up, begin the exhale and feel the transverse abdominal engage. At the top of the squat/lunge, the pelvic floor lift should be the last piece to the movement to lift and tighten. Lastly but certainly not least, all abdominal work during pregnancy should be centered around breath work and core engagement.
Postpartum, deep core breathing is the first exercise I recommend to all clients alike regardless of vaginal birth or c-section. In fact, this method can and should be performed in the hospital as it assists the uterus on contracting back into the abdominal area. In the first few weeks with a new little angel, every feeding session, perform a few rounds of deep core breathing. This will have the same effect as wearing a belly band; however, the results will last much longer.