Elaine continues her postpartum training series – this week it’s the importance of breathing
So, following my 6 week Doctor Physiotherapist check-up (see Week 6 post here), I started to integrate (and prioritise), some Breathing Exercise, Myofascial Release (MR) techniques, Stretching and spinal articulation.
I found it so interesting to rediscover just how stiff the pregnant postpartum body can become! The exercises in my following few posts are just some of the movements I did 3 – 4 times a week for Weeks 7 – 10 postpartum, while I kept up my walking routine (although these too became every other day, instead of daily as before).
Encouraging breath into the rear of your rib cage helps release muscle tension in the upper / mid back, and helps prepare the spine for mobilisation.
There is also, more importantly, a hugely important link between breath, thoracic restriction and pelvic floor health. When you inhale using your diaphragm (allowing your rib cage to open to the sides and your belly to expand) rather than just breathing using your chest, your pelvic floor and transverse abdominis muscles lengthen.
When you exhale, your pelvic floor and transverse recoil. This generates deep tension in your torso—good tension that anchors your core and creates stability when you move, lift something or exercise.
The general advice to new moms is to do numerous Kegels or ‘pelvic floor lifts’, which will indeed re-strengthen Pelvic Floor, but will not necessarily produce a well functioning Pelvic Floor!! Learning to relax your deep core muscles and coordinate their action is just as important as learning to engage/ strengthen them.
Many women will actually grip their abs or hold their pelvic-floor muscles too tightly during pilates or core exercise, which affects the ability of these deep core muscles – Pelvic Floor, Diaphragm, Multifidus Transverse Abdominis – to work optimally in the co-ordinated way they should. Try my 2 simple exercises as outlined below.
‘Breathing in Flexion’
- Sit upright on sitting-bones, with knees bent (either on the floor or sturdy chair);
- Take a deep breath in, visualising your spine lengthening like a spring which is being gently stretched;
- Breathe out as you flex your spine forward over your knees, resting your palms to your shins, and allowing shoulders to relax;
- Hold this position as you take 5 – 8 breaths, feeling expansion to the Abdominals & back & sides of rib cage; avoid elevating shoulders or chest
- Perform 2 – 3 sets, sitting tall between sets.
‘Breathing in Side Flexion / Rotation’
- Lie sideways with waistline atop a few sturdy cushions, pillows or soft ball as pictured; bottom knee bent for balance, top leg long to help anchor the trunk;
- Breathe in as you reach top arm alongside your head, holding the stretch your body’s side seams for 5 – 8 breaths.
- Rotate the upper body so that your face is downward, and top arm is rested forward of the top hip. Breathe into your back as if trying to reach your top shoulder away from your back pocket of same side TIP – tilt pelvis slightly posteriorly to enhance the low back stretch. Perform 5 – 8 breaths.
- Repeat to other side.