Core stability is SO IMPORTANT in supporting your breathing, your movement, and your back! Core stability is essential for almost everyone and even more essential for individuals who are athletes!
The muscles involved with core stability are the Transversus Abdominus, the Internal and External Obliques, the Quadratus Lumborum, and the diaphragm. Often there are some dysfunctions with these muscles, but it is especially more so in the diaphragm and the transversus abdominus.
To help better our core stability we have to first correct our breathing patterns by engaging our diaphragm. Our diaphragm is one of the primary and most essential muscles involved with breathing. A large percentage of the population does not breathe with their diaphragm. In fact, often we breath with our chest and our necks. Those muscles that are involved with shallow breathing are the scalenes, the serratus posterior superior, and the upper trapezius are secondary respiratory muscles. As we become shallow breathers, our neck and shoulder muscles get tight and tired and our diaphragm muscle is inhibited. A weakened core can lead to other dysfunctions within the body and to other injuries – especially in sports. So having proper breathing is SO IMPORTANT!
Proper Breathing Exercise
You can try this breathing exercise right before you go to bed or even when you’re on a break at work! This only takes about 5-10 minutes of your time. The more consistent you are with these breathing techniques the better it is for your core and your overall health! It’s also great for meditation/relaxation!
1. Start out lying on your back with eyes closed (Once you get good at breathing on your back… try breathing in a seated position). Arms at your side. You may have your knees up if you have back pain.
2. Tighten and keep your abdominal muscles engaged throughout this exercise.
3. While maintaining the tightened muscles – slowly inhale while mentally counting slowly to 4 seconds. Imagine forcing the air to the “bottom parts of your lungs” – this allows for the diaphragm (and abdomen) to slowly expand first before allowing the chest to expand to allow more air into “upper portions” of the lung”.
4. Now hold the air in for 2 seconds.
5. Slowly release the air starting from the chest depressing and then lastly the diaphragm pushing the rest of the air out for the same amount of time that you slowly began to inhaled.
6. At the end of the 4 seconds of exhalation, hold your breath for 2 seconds.
7. Start again from Step 1. Practice for about 5 minutes each day and slowly extend your time as you find your breathing gets better.
As you get better with the breathing and you want to increase the amount of time you inhale, hold, exhale, hold – challenge yourself by increasing the time. It’s best to try to inhale/exhale to even numbers since the “holding” part of this exercise is about 1/2 the time of an inhalation/exhalation. Now don’t give up! It takes a long time to progress with this exercise! But as you get better at it, you’ll definitely notice some changes such as:
- Decreased tension around the neck and the shoulders
- Better sleep
- Better mental clarity
- Less stress
- Better productivity and focus
- More energy
- Better stability in workout routines since the core is the foundation for movement
- Better memory