In this pic I’m not actually pregnant. In fact, I’m around 5 months postnatal. The connective tissue between my abdominal muscles connecting the abdominal muscles was lax and thin and not coming back together as they often do post birth and nothing seemed to be changing with my usual yoga practice. At the time I didn’t know just how long it can take for the tissue to regenerate and just how important the breathing aspect was in terms of learning how to decrease rather than increase pressure.
A really common breathing pattern, especially from those with a yoga background, is belly breathing. It’s super relaxing, calming for the nervous system and when trying to get to sleep at night I often settle in with a few focused low breaths, but if you have a core issue and you are already experiencing a lot of pressure in your pelvic floor, you may want to make sure that you aren’t excessively breathing into your belly, puffing it up, creating a buddha belly (all common cues we can hear in a yoga class).
Since learning how the way you breathe impacts the amount of pressure on the abdominal wall and pelvic floor my ‘belly breathing’ is a little different now. Often referred to as 'diaphragmatic breathing', but surely all breathing diaphragmatic? Unless you need support to breath with an external apparatus. I don’t tend to think of it as just ‘belly breathing’ now , but more 3-dimensional breathing with a lovely soft belly, that allows the breath to come in but is supported pressure wise with the help of that amazing ribcage above it.
Prior to my RYC® training I would breathe in a way that ‘pushes’ the belly out, creating a big round moving forwards of my belly and didn't pay much attention to what my ribs were doing at all. It’s really my work with clients with DR or prolapse that has adjusted my thinking and how I teach breathing. With a prolapse or diastasis there is excessive pressure either pushing out or down into the core or pelvic floor. Here you can visibly see the pressure in my pic, remember I’m postnatal and no baby is in there! We can’t see the pelvic floor, but you can imagine the last thing my already very lax connective tissue needs is more pressure pushing on it.
So rather than adding to more pressure by excessively breathing into the belly , how can we breathe in a way that decreases pressure, doesn’t cause shallow breathing high up in the chest and not hold, suck in or create unwanted belly tension?
We need to think more in the round, more three di-mentionally. We are 3 dimensional beings after all.
Test: If you place your hands on either sides of your ribs, can you breathe moving the ribs side to side without sucking your belly in? Repeat: soft belly to begin, allow the breath to come in, ribs to move side to side and the belly gently rises. This can still feel super relaxing and you can still bring the breath low without excessively creating pressure.
If you compare that to holding your ribs, not letting them move and breathing only into your belly by moving it forwards in one dimension, there is a big difference. Try and feel it and notice what you notice.Feel the roundness to your breath ribs moving, front back, side to side and up and down and belly responding and receiving the breath naturally.
Your ribcage has the potential to expand on the inhale, whereas the belly has the potential to bulge. We still want belly movement, but it does not have to involve any ‘pushing’
As RYC® teachers we spend a lot of time observing breathing patterns. Spotting for paradoxical breathing (belly moving in on inhale and out on exhale), belly tension, no movement in the belly at all, lack of thoracic mobility and how we can bring more freedom of movement into that area.
It took a while for me to understand how to manage the huge amount of pressure my belly was feeling in this pic and how to breathe in a way that helped to relieve and find balance.
If you are a yoga teacher and you have clients who are experiencing a lot of pressure in the core and pelvic floor feel to get in touch. I’m happy to share what I have found and learnt working as an RYC® pro teacher.
It is possible to feel totally relaxed and not excessively belly breathe with movement in the ribs.
Is such a fascinating convo on this one please feel free to comment.