Feeling disconnected to your core? Unsure how to properly activate your core muscles?
Having bladder leakage? Noticing increased pelvic pressure or prolapse? Intercourse not as enjoyable? Have you had a baby? Want to feel strong?
These are just some of the questions that may indicate core weakness. And when I speak of the core, I am talking about our inner core stabilizing muscles. When these muscles are working optimally, they keep us from leaking urine, keep us stabilized and supported with all our movements, and play a role in sexual function. Injuries, pregnancy, high intensity exercise, stress, and prolonged postures can disrupt how well we use our inner core. These muscles are supposed to automatically “turn on” or activate prior to movement and sometimes this automatic response can be disrupted. When this occurs, it is important that we re-train these muscles to turn back on and in the proper sequence so that we can move and function optimally.
The four inner core stabilizing muscles include our diaphragm, pelvic floor muscles, transverse abdominis, and our multifidus.
The diaphragm is our primary breathing muscle, it sits underneath our ribs and is the top of our inner core system. When we breathe in (inhale), the diaphragm flattens out and moves down to accommodate the air moving into our lungs. When we breathe out (exhale) the diaphragm moves back up into its original position.
Our pelvic floor muscles sit at the bottom of our core canister. These muscles act as a hammock and run from our pubic bone to tailbone and sits bone to sits bone. These are the muscles that stop the flow of urine. Like the diaphragm, when we inhale these muscles lengthen and lower and when we exhale they move back up to their original position.
Our transverse abdominis muscles wrap around us like a corset, keeping us strong and stable. During an inhale, these muscles naturally expand and lengthen and during an exhale, they shorten and contract to flatten our tummy.
The last inner core muscle is our multifidus. These are tiny muscles that run from one vertebra to another and these muscles are often inhibited or “turned off” when we have back injuries or back pain. When these muscles aren’t working effectively, it increases the load on our other back muscles therefore creating tightness and overuse in those muscles.
So what is the core breath? It is best performed with an in-person or virtual visit so that I can ensure proper activation but I will do my best to describe with words how to achieve a good inner core activation. A core breath allows for full lengthening and shortening (or relaxation and contraction) of our inner core muscles. As we inhale, all four inner core muscles lengthen and relax and as we exhale these muscles naturally shorten and engage, so it is during the exhale that we will actively be contracting these muscles. Remember the phrase, “exhale on exertion”. Any exercise can be turned into a core exercise by utilizing the core breath.
Core Breath How To: As you inhale, let the belly and ribs expand as you keep your muscles relaxed. As you exhale you will squeeze and lift your pelvic floor muscles (like you are stopping the flow of urine), your tummy muscles (Transverse Abdominis) will draw in toward your midline, and your spine will grow (multifidus). Then repeat. I recommend learning how to contract one muscle at a time and then coordinate them all together in the above sequence. In the beginning you will be performing 10 repetitions 3-5x/day and in various positions.
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Interested in learning more? Then check out my Restore Your Core Program as part of our Nurturing Health Outdoors Series! This program will be up to 2 hours long and teach you, step by step, on how to reconnect with your core to feel confident and strong. To learn more about Restore Your core Program check out the events page.