The diaphragm. Do you know that muscle? I’m willing to bet that if you ask some health and fitness professionals, they will have no idea what the basic characteristics of this muscle are and why it is important in movement.
The diaphragm is a muscle that is shaped like an umbrella which sits right underneath your rib cage. Although its primary function is that of breathing, it also plays a large role during movement by assisting in moving and stabilizing the rib cage and spinal column.
Just like every other muscle in the body, it can be trained to be more efficient in its movement, stronger in its force production, and to become more flexible.
The first step in creating change in the diaphragm is recognizing your level of control over it. So, how do you know if you are in control of your diaphragm? Try this;
Wrap a belt snuggly around your waist. You can use your belly button as a marker - lay the belt on top of it.
Lay on your back on a stable surface with your knees bent at 90 degrees, with your hands and feet flat on the floor.
Place your spine in a neutral position; said differently, just lay normally/comfortably/naturally.
Start a slow and steady breathing pattern, preferably with a 4-8 second inhale and a 6-12 second exhale, slow and steady.
Use the belt as feedback. You should feel your back, sides and front of the torso expand into the belt as you inhale. As you exhale the belt should become looser on all sides of the body.
This is where the magic happens: You must try to inflate the 360 degree area of the belly, sides and back. Many people can properly inflate their belly but their back and sides don’t expand at an equal rate!
The torso should expand like a balloon does, equally all the way around. The belt is a great tool to provide you feedback of which points on your torso you have difficulty breathing into.
Spend 2 minutes a day practicing this technique. As you become comfortable with it, try carrying it over to times you find yourself sitting, standing, side lying, or even moving. Being able to expand the torso equally on all sides is an external way to see that the diaphragm is contracting efficiently on all sides. Being able to master this skill is just step one in mastering your breath, your spinal movement, and even your stress and anxiety level!
Stephen Cornely FRCms LMT
Triad Wellness Philly
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