Hey readers! For my second blog post, I am going to talk about diaphragmatic breathing. To illustrate this concept, I will use one of my favorite exercises: Legs Up the Wall. Diaphragmatic breathing is a type of breath-work that allows access to the fullest lung capacity. Most of us are shallow-breathers, meaning that we use our chest and neck muscles for breathing, causing us to fatigue faster and depriving us of much needed oxygen. Diaphragmatic breathing involves deep inhales and exhales, expanding the abdomen and pulling the belly button toward the spine, putting to work our deep core muscles.
Accessing deep core muscles are important to athletes and people of all kind because they provide stability and alignment for the hip and torso relationship. These deep core muscles exist at our deepest internal muscle layer and are the main players in maintaining upright posture. Through the process of activating and lengthening the deep core muscles, space is created in the belly, which allows for the rib cage to lift and expand. This lift is crucial in alleviating physical stress on the low back and hips.
The reason Legs Up the Wall is such a useful exercise is that it provides the rare opportunity for the spine to fully relax. Being on your back takes gravity out of the equation and sends a message to your central nervous system to let go of any held tension. Your entire posterior chain, consisting of large muscle groups like the hamstrings, glutes, and lats have a chance to turn off and take a rest. This sets the stage for your smaller deeper muscles to shine.
To get into Legs Up the Wall, simply lie on your back with your sit-bones pressed against the wall and legs extended skyward. Your body will resemble the shape of an “L”. In this position, you will begin breathing deep inhales and exhales into your low belly. On your inhales you will focus on expanding your ribs laterally. On your exhales, you will focus on pressing your naval toward your spine, filling the small space between your low back and the ground.
For a step-by-step explanation of how to do this exercise in its fullest expression, watch my video posted below.
My recommendation is that you practice this exercise at home or at the gym, before or after a workout. It is both a restorative and warmup exercise that is great to practice on rest days, days you feel sore, or days you feel lagging in energy or need a “reset”. Start with 2- 3x per week, 5-10 minutes at a time. I practice this exercise every day and have found that it improves my overall quality of muscle recruitment, breathing when working, and has made my core stronger than ever.
Whether it is posture you are looking to improve, positions in your lifts, or efficiency in your breathing and movement, this exercise can be your new best friend and fixture in your self-maintenance regimen. Hit me up in person or via email to ask questions and give me feedback about the results you get from this exercise.