I know you know how to breathe & I thought I did too. It’s quite funny really, because pretty much my whole adult life, I’ve taught and done Pilates, and I’ve done Pilates since I was a teenager, as young dancers we did body conditioning for dancers, I didn’t know it was really Pilates in disguise. We just did it, there was no fancy mats or apparatus, it was just a little bit of floor work at the beginning of classes & it always began with breathing. So really, I thought I had the breathing thing because it was a key principle of Pilates. What I didn’t know was that injury, trauma & repetitive strain, imbalanced posture could negatively impact the coordination of my breath. I just thought I can breathe, I know how to breathe ‘properly’. I thought I was fine. Until I realised I wasn’t, and bigger than that there isn’t a ‘proper’ correct, right or one & only way to breathe. There’s automatic & functional, there’s a desirable, & there’s a tool that we can use within the breathing to enhance movement. We all know we need to breathe, it’s life-giving & it’s also movement-giving.
Ok, sp let’s get down to what you need to know about breath to achieve Whole Body Pelvic Health! There is an incredible symbiotic relationship between your breathing diaphragm & your pelvic floor which is also a diaphragm. The contract downwards as you inhale & upward as you exhale. This can feel like your pelvis & belly lightly expanding as you inhale & softly narrowing in & up as you exhale. It is not an exercise you do it’s automatic, except when it’s not! After a birth injury like an episiotomy or if you have a C-Section, have a hip replacement or fall on your bottom these events & others can put the diaphragms out of sync.
When they are not synchronised it’s called paradoxical & if that is the case your diaphragms are moving towards each other & away from each other instead of moving down & up together. This means that whatever exercise you do your core, of which your pelvic floor is part, can’t support you by distributing the pressure & you can experience Pelvic Organ Prolapse, Hernia, separated abdominal muscles or other pelvis, hip low back pain & incontinence symptoms.
How do you know if you are paradoxically breathing? First, we need to assess this sitting up or standing because that’s how we have evolved & our diaphragms align & function best. Simply bring your awareness to your breath, relaxed & soft tummy & then place your hands on your pelvis front at your pubic bone, back at your tailbone. What if any movement do you feel? When do you feel the movement on the inhale or exhale? Take note. If you don’t feel any movement you might be holding your tummy in the middle & you might be paradoxical if your bones move when you exhale you are most likely paradoxically breathing.
Please don’t worry. This is normal & common, remember this is where I started!! I was training in the Franklin Method to enhance my Pilates teaching not long after I had my second son & I felt myself paradoxically breathing.
Let’s retrain your diaphragms by giving them simple feedback so they can talk to one another again. Sit on a dining room chair on a rolled up towel front to the back of your pelvis, feet flat on the floor & breathe gently here for 1-4 minutes. Remove the towel & feel the difference right away. Your diaphragms are talking. Repeat this exercise daily.
Now that you have restored that incredible natural synchronised relationship, you will find everything else will now start falling into place.