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Core Breath 101- the foundation

Here is a field report I wrote on core breath. I am posting it here for the clients who have been geeking out with me on core rehabilitation, and for anyone else who has interest in the practical application of core function. I am going to post this in installments bc it is so long.....

Core Breath as Applied to Advanced Exercise- Pfilates & Beyond
Not JUST for your pre and postnatal clients!

This is a current field report of Core breath and Pfilates as applied to advanced strength training. I have been practicing both core breath and pfilates for over a year.  The application of the exercises to my client’s programs has given me a lot of feedback and insight into their functionality.

Retraining core function is a process of mastery. With cues through exercise we retrain the core to function autonomously, supporting not only advanced exercise but also everyday meaningful movement and activities.

  • It all begins with core breath:

I work with many pre and postnatal clients and therefore have a fundamental focus on core function and strength. As a certified Pfilates instructor I have had tremendous success with the program in the field, but before I can introduce Pfilates I must ensure that my client can perform a proper pelvic floor release and contraction. Therefore it all begins with the core breath.

Hypertonic- Focus on release:
My experience is that 95% of my clients are hypertonic. I believe this is due to the stress of supporting a pregnancy and the subsequent “tucking under” that inevitably results postnatally. Women are inclined to offset the imbalance of postnatal injury by holding everything “in”, seemingly “flattening” their bellies by tucking with a posterior tilt, resulting in a hypertonic pelvic floor. When we begin core breath, the focus is on posture with a slight anterior pelvic tilt for maximum inhalation, followed by the ability to release the pelvic floor with that inhalation. I begin with the seated position (on a stability ball ideally) for posture. This often takes a week or 2 to master.

PFM Contraction- Form, ROM and Diastasis Recti:
Once a client can connect with the PFM release we progress to the contraction. I typically begin in the seated position and my focus is on slow with ROM only to engage the transverse. This is especially important for clients with a diastasis recti. We know that internal obliques will approximate a diastasis but/and open the ribs. The problem with approximation through IO is that the linea alba is not strengthened and becomes subsequently very deep although the recti are close. Once the IO are disengaged the DR opens up again. This is very frustrating to a client who has worked hard for apparent results. Compound this with the fact that many of us are already oblique dominant AND the safe/effective exercises for strengthening with a DR have oblique focus- it exacerbates an imbalance that can result in a hindering of rehabilitation and core function, resonating to the PFM!  If I perform my PFM too quickly I can almost skip the TVA entirely before the IO come on.

Inversely, clients may “pick up the bean” initiating the movement from the transverse and not the PFM. I cue them to be mindful that they use their vagina to grab the bean, without pulling their navel in. They then lift slowly up inside until their navel moves. I suggest they spot the navel lightly with one finger to feel when it pulls in. If they are struggling to connect with the ROM I may have them “step” the lift up to their TVA, and possibly “step” it back down again.

Focusing on proper form is essential. Side lying core breath is 201 in my program and allows the client to begin spotting their PFM/TVA/IO contractions and control the movement to perfect form. I put focus on slow controlled execution of the core breath in this phase of the program- it all begins with the diaphragm. Do not contract your PFM until the exhalation has begun, and this is a nanosecond!
*I would like to interject that I rehabbed my own DR with Tupler not knowing any of this. I did suffer imbalances in PFM and thorax mobility.

That's the 101's.... stay tuned for more advanced application of core breath!

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