Breathing is essential to life. It’s something that we all do repeatedly, every day. But for the next two weeks, breathing will form the core of my fitness regime.
For beyond its oxygen-transporting properties, breathing can serve a number of other powerful roles within the body.
To put things in context, let me first explain that this week I gave birth to a baby girl. The labour was quick, but intense – and my body is feeling a bit battered to say the least.
Far from throwing myself back into a fitness regime to lose those extra kilos, recovery is currently the aim of my game.
Breathing is essential to this.
In the latter stages of pregnancy, women breathe into their chests rather than into their abdomens. That’s because the diaphragm doesn’t have space to descend and the ribs can’t fully expand.
Learning to breathe properly again is the first step to get the core working functionally once again.
However, connection breathing is important for everyone, especially if returning to exercise after injury or simply a long break.
Why? Because it helps establish a strong core which is essential to protect the body and achieve the best results during exercise.
So what exactly is it?
We’re not just talking simple inhalation and expiration – it’s a little more complex than that.
We’re talking about connected breathing which involves connecting your core and your pelvic floor – both of which cop a bit of a battering during pregnancy and labour.
In addition, abdominal breathing for 20 to 30 minutes each day helps to reduce anxiety and stress by increasing the supply of oxygen to your brain and stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system, thereby promoting a state of calmness.
How to do it?
Sit on a chair and make sure you’re well-aligned, sitting on top of your sit bones.
Place one hand on your belly and the other slightly higher on your rib cage
Inhale, imagining that you are reinflating or expanding your pelvic floor, filling your nether regions (we’re talking vagina and anus here) with air.
Then, as you exhale, imagine drawing those nether regions up into your body, gently activating your pelvic floor and lower abdominals. Pull the ribs down and draw belly button to spine at the same time
With each breath, release as you inhale, and then pick them back up with each exhale so all of the muscles are moving together.
Do your connection breaths lying on your back or side, seated or standing (the most challenging).
Aim for two sets of 10 connection breaths per day for the first few weeks post-partum along with two ten minute walks in the fresh air at an easy pace. But remember, everyone is different. Just do what feels comfortable for you.
Are you returning to exercise after having a baby?