5 Breathing Drills That Work Your Core Muscles — No Crunches Required
Photograph by Supreeya Chantalao/Freepik
And we’re talking those deep core muscles…
Team work. That’s how your deep core muscles should work. Every movement you make starts with them, so if one part of your deep core system is out of balance, you can experience the so-not-lekker symptoms of core dysfunction: prolapse, incontinence, hernias, diastasis recti, mummy tummy, hip pain, back pain, neck pain and shoulder pain.
Now, before you groan and prepare to crunch, know this: working your core doesn’t have to mean hours of sit-ups. It starts with breathing drills, because if you optimise your breathing pattern, you’ll automatically be optimising your core function.
Your core team consists of your diaphragm, transversus abdominals, pelvic floor and multifidus muscles along your spine. Wellness experts Janet Kimmel and Shirley Boerssen share their five exercises that target these muscles to reconnect with your breath and work your core more effectively. Do these five exercises three to four times a week for optimal results:
1. Core breath
Here how to do a core breath: While seated or lying down, inhale. As you do this, think of softening your pelvic floor. Then exhale – and, as you do this, gently engage your pelvic floor. Do 15-30 breaths.
Note: Core breath is not a Kegel; it isn’t a strength exercise. The key is to gently engage and release. The sensation is similar to when you relax to wee. On the inhale, think of relaxing and starting the flow of urine. On the exhale, think of gently slowing the flow of urine.
2. Box breathing
This is a simple meditative breathing pattern that really wakes up your ribs and diaphragm. While seated or lying down, inhale to a count of 4, hold your breath for 4, exhale for 4, hold your breath for 4 and repeat. Aim for 15-30 breaths.
Note: Keep your tummy soft and avoid arching your mid-back. Focus on expanding into your side and back ribs.
3. Stationary lunge using core breath
Stand with your feet in the starting position for a lunge. Inhale. As you do this, soften through your pelvic floor and bend your knees to go into the lunge. At the bottom of your lunge, stop, gently engage your pelvic floor and exhale as you straighten your legs and return to your start position. Repeat 2-4 sets of 10-15 reps.
4. Table top plank Hover using core breath
On all fours, in a table top position, inhale and soften your pelvic floor, stop, gently engage your pelvic floor and lift your knees a few centimetres off the mat so that you’re balancing on your hands and feet. Exhale as your knees hover above the mat for 2-4 seconds, then gently lower them to the mat again. Repeat for 2-4 sets of 10-15 reps.
If you feel pressure when lifting your knees, or see your tummy bulging, don’t lift your knees. Just remain in the tabletop position without lifting your knees. Instead, think of lengthening through your tail bone and crown as you exhale.
5. Bridge combined with core breath
Lying on your back with your feet on the floor and your knees bent, heals just below and in line with your sit bones, inhale and soften your pelvic floor (think: starting the flow of urine), stop and gently engage your pelvic floor (think: slowing the flow of urine), exhale as you lift your pelvis up into a bridge.
Instead of squeezing your glutes tight together as if you were pinching a penny in the middle, rather squeeze both butt cheeks up to the sky – this will lessen any pelvic tuck. Repeat 2-4 sets of 10-15 reps.