Hello from Ives & Christy
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How many of you have taken a workout class and heard the phrase, "suck your belly button (navel) in towards your spine?"
I am personally guilty of coaching others with this exact phrase. You hear it so often because it's a simple, visual cue. Everyone has a navel and knows where their spine is. But if you focus on sucking your belly button in, then this facilitates shallow breathing. Shallow breathing is bad. It leads to improper function of the diaphragm. Improper function of diaphragm impacts your pelvic floor and spinal stability.
If you or someone you know is complaining of neck, chest, or back tightness, this could be a sign of utilizing secondary muscles for respiration and improper diaphragmatic breathing. The goal of this over-utilized phrase is to promote activation of deep core muscles or the TVA (transverse abdominis). But it does the opposite of that. Let's dive deeper into the difference between the two breathing patterns and get you one step closer to activating the deepest layer of core muscles.
Shallow Breathing Pattern vs. 360 Breathing Pattern
Shallow Breathing, also known as belly breathing
360 Breathing, also known as diaphragmatic breathing
So let's check your breathing. The best way to do this is to see it for yourself. I like to check while standing and use a mirror. Lift your shirt up (PG-13) and turn to your side. As you take a deep inhale, watch your body. You should see your chest, ribs, and back expand. The goal is to not have your shoulders shrug up. That means you are using more accessory muscles and likely have a shallow breathing pattern. You can also check your breathing pattern lying on your side or on your back. When you are lying on your back, you should be able to feel that back expansion.
If you notice that you are a shallow breather, then take time each day to focus on improving breathing patterns. You can start by 5-10 diaphragmatic breaths 1-2 times per day. I like to do this during my morning meditation and my walks.
Let's Talk About That Belly Button
So if you are sucking in your belly button to your spine, then you cannot fully expand your diaphragm. You won't have proper core strength. So what should we cue instead?
Pregnancy and Postpartum Considerations
Umm hello have you seen a pregnant woman. What do you think happens to all those organs and the female anatomy during pregnancy?
Often this all contributes to less effective breathing. So it's important to learn how to breathe correctly before and during pregnancy in order to maximize oxygenation for mama and babe, but to also minimize discomfort.
Goals for postpartum
ONE MORE TIME --What to Cue Instead?
Effective breathing patterns are critical for every day life and for exercise. Being more mindful of our breathing patterns can help prevent injury in the long run. Let's work on being more connected to our core through our breath.
Conquer Your Summit,
Ives Hot, PharmD, BCACP, PCES
This material was gathered from my postpartum certification Core Exercise Solutions with Dr. Sarah Duvall and Expecting and Empowered.