I am currently planning a free workshop, set for sometime at the end of April, where I will discuss in further detail this duo and how taking ownership of both will change your life. I'd love to know what questions you have about either or both so please drop me a note via email at Kari@303fitness.net so I can make sure to answer it in the workshop!
I've been a trainer for over 8 years now and an athlete my entire life. The biggest shift in both my own training and the training of others has been in the last few years when I began to fully understand the relationship between the breath and the core. Which is really to say, gaining a better understanding of each on their own and then how the two work together.
I first had to start with relearning how to breathe while at rest. Let me be clear that your breath should vary between restful states and states of stress such as exercise. The following will mostly describe breathing in a restful state as opposed to exercise. We must first learn to breathe properly at rest and then can learn how to breathe while under the stress of exercise (or life!).
Breathing is something that happens automatically for us and is done without thought. Unfortunately, many of us are not breathing correctly and this can be directly tied to our constantly high levels of stress which trigger our sympathetic nervous system(SNS), also known as fight or flight. When our SNS is triggered we tend to breath a bit more rapid and shallow (this also happens in exercise with rapid breathing and that's ok!). When we are breathing like this, we tend to not be utilizing our diaphragm, the major muscle for respiration. If we are not utilizing our major muscle for respiration then we surely aren't breathing efficiently or correctly. This becomes a problem for many reasons but here's where we will connect it to your core...
Your diaphragm and pelvic floor work together. If breathing with appropriate use of your diaphragm, the diaphragm extends down to help pull air into the lungs. When the diaphragm pulls down, or distends, so doesn't the pelvic floor. On exhalation, the diaphragm gently contracts, helping to force air out of the lungs. When the diaphragm contracts, the pelvic floor also contracts, lifting slightly.
With proper breathing:
If the diaphragm elongates, distends, lengthens so doesn't the pelvic floor.
If the diaphragm shortens, contracts, lifts so doesn't the pelvic floor.
With dysfunctional, shallow breathing that isn't fully utilizing the diaphragm, the pelvic floor is also effected.
Let's look at some of what can happen when you're not breathing efficiently:
-lower CO2 in the blood (leads to poor body oxygenation aka feeling low energy)
-adverse effects on blood ph
-limited performance, especially felt in sports/activities
-movement mechanics begin to suffer
-dizziness, instability, headaches
And we know now that if we aren't breathing properly, then we most likely aren't using our pelvic floor properly. If your pelvic floor isn't properly functioning, a few of the following issues may arise (amongst others):
-bladder leakage when running, jumping, coughing, laughing
-prolapse of: vagina, uterus, prostate, anus
I do want to clarify that the above problems do not immediately mean that the pelvic floor is weak. These problems can also arise when the pelvic floor is extremely tight and essentially over fatigued. It can go both ways!
So how do you remedy dysfunctional breathing? How do you remedy a dysfunctional pelvic floor?
Start by sitting and breathing. And not just any breathing...you must begin to learn to diaphragmatically breath. At the end of April in the workshop (mentioned at the start of this post) I will go over many more details but here is a brief introduction to diaphragmatic breathing.
What does this feel like?
Diaphragmatic breathing feels like 'belly breathing' because it's a rise and fall of the diaphragm which is nestled right under your ribs. When you inhale, the diaphragm elongates forcing the belly out in expansion. This inhale helps to pull the air deep into the lungs. When you inhale diaphragmatically you should also get in touch with your ribs...are they expanding in all directions? They should be! I often find it helpful to put my hands on my belly as I sit and breathe. The sensory input from my heads helps me feel into each breath.
When can you do it?
All the time! Eventually you'll see that you can breathe like this all the time but for now, try practicing as you're driving. Every red light, check in with yourself...are you shallow breathing or diaphragmatically breathing? No judgement if it's shallow!!! Just notice, and adjust.
We can't undo years of patterns in one quick flip of a switch. This, along with any and all repatterning, takes time. Beginners mindest will do wonders here!!!! Be curious about your breath. Begin to notice what is actually taking place in your body:
-am I shallow with my breath?
-what's it feel like to breathe using my diaphragm?
-am I uncomfortable with the expansion of my belly on the inhale? What's this about? Is it from a lifetime of being told to 'suck it in'?
-when I am working out, how does my breathing change?
-what's working for me?
-what isn't working for me?
-can i feel my pelvic floor?
I will be continuing this dialogue here on the blog in the following weeks, digging in a bit more each time. Looking forward to sharing more with you all and seeing how this information changes your relationship to your core and your breath!