How breathing engages the core

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vitruvian-man-largeTransverse diaphragms connected with the sacral, lumbar, thoracic, and cervical spine need to move freely if electrolytes are to flow uninterrupted up thru the organ systems. Since the diaphragm between the chest and abdomen moves the most, gaining control over ventilatory depth and breadth is the most efficient way to engage the deepest layers of muscle connected to the spine. Whether it’s Yoga, Pilates, or martial arts, all exercise disciplines have their own way of achieving  this, each slightly different depending on their priority. For example in Pilates postural correction thru strengthening and conditioning the core muscles requires a specific explanation of the breathing technique, while in the pHx™ warmup cool down routine the purpose is oxygenating deep organs and muscles equally in the sequence that balances body pH. If you haven’t heard about pHx, it’s performance  pre and post sports training, or any stressful activity, assists the kidneys in normalizing blood pH necessary for integrating physiological processes. The Body”Fit pHx routine is essentially a breathing exercise that utilizes the most economical complete expression of the musculo-skeletal system in a single 7-14 minute session that raises V02max specifically in each muscle group to elicit an entirely revolutionary physiological response aimed at accelerating mind body focus. That is, it prevents acidification of the blood during physical activity by distributing electrolytes evenly to all cells. Therefore pHx requires a more efficient breathing technique.

Transverse abdominis, the muscle that circumvents the abdomen and pops up in your lower belly whenever you cough, is what keeps the  low back in the correct neutral position to stabilize rotation of the torso around the pelvis. It’s most easily activated when we focus in on a very specific point in the belly, which we call the CorePoint™ in pHx. The breathing technique used in pHx to increase movement of the five transverse diaphragms utilizes this primary visualization. The CorePoint is not an anatomical organ like the kidneys, it’s our physical centre of balance located in the middle of the lower abdomen. This is where most of the blood in the body is stored during rest and sleep..

The pelvic diaphragm is felt in the pit of the lower belly just above the pubic bone. If you think of the pelvic diaphragm as the bottom of a bowl, the CorePoint is suspended above it about three fingerwidths below the navel. By visualizing the CorePoint as a magnet that attracts the abdominal diaphragm downwards and the pelvic diaphragm upwards in the vacuum created by expansion of the pulmonary cavity during inspiration, we can sense our whole body at once, coordinating movement and breathing more effectively.

CorePoint breathing also helps improves core conditioning crucial to muscle strength. When we imagine drawing air directly into this point, as opposed to trying to figure out which muscles to activate the core (squeezing in the stomach like corset or a tight belt around your torso, etc) the bottom ribs expand more fully. So pHx isn’t the belly breathing of yoga. The difference is that by end inspiration when air has filled the top lung segment, this depth and breadth of expansion produces pressure changes between the chest and abdomen that naturally pulls up on the deep pelvic core  including the pelvic floor (since all the muscles are connected). It takes Pilates breathing to the next level by becoming aware of all the muscles of the body at the same time, the intelligence of the body engages breathing depth and breath with an efficiency that cannot be duplicated by the mind.

Try it, focus in on the CorePoint, inhale deeply letting the belly expand naturally (don’t worry this isn’t what gives you a pot belly) and notice how contraction peaks first in the abdominal diaphragm, followed by diaphragms related to the chest, neck and head, until finally at the top of the inhale, the pelvic diaphragm is awakened and the pelvic core contracts. When exhaling maintain the CorePoint releases the diaphragm upwards as you press air out of the lungs thru the mouth in the reverse order from top to bottom. This produces quite a different dynamic from Pilates or yoga, without holding in the stomach, squeezing the sphincters to pull up the pelvic floor, contracting the gluts or anything like that. In fact during pHx you shouldn’t attempt to engage the core by using the more superficial muscles as it can restrict breathing.

The ventilatory efficiency that triggers a flash of electrolytes thru all the tissues during pHx depends on the unique breathing pattern for each progressive exercise, however how freely and quickly the chest moves is primarily determined by consistency of visualization. Think of your upper and lower abdomen as an accordion pressing towards the CorePoint on the inhale and opening inward on the exhale, with your lungs doing the pumping action. As you fill your lungs to the top the pressures in the chest and abdomen become such that you can actually feel the CorePoint pulling up all the muscles of the lower abdomen (including the Kegel muscles).

In this way the pelvic transverse diaphragm also follows the breath and is ready to fully contract on the exhale as the CorePoint magnet releases the tissues, and contraction of the pelvic core kicks in fully to stabilize the spine. Believe it or not, but the fact remains mental focus on the precise CorePoint of physical equilibrium, supports the dynamic synergy where all muscles are activated inside following the breath. Unless we pinpoint the CorePoint and fill the lungs from bottom to top and empty in the reverse order, we don’t get the same intensification in the pelvic core during inspiration and we won’t get the same depth of contraction with expiration. No other visualization will do it quite like this.

You can then add the correct posture by dropping shoulders out, back, and down towards the CorePoint, relaxing your feet, unlocking the knees to let your weight sink, tilting the pelvis for a neutral spine, and rucking the hips till you feel a slight curl at the level of the diaphragm in the lower belly and you have an effective two-way stretch from the CorePoint thru the top of your head that activates multifidus and the transverse abdominals, et Voila you’ve engaged your core effortlessly. What it comes down to breathing specific to what we’re trying to achieve with an exercise workout gives better results.

“I admit it, I used to think if I was huffing and puffing till I was blue in the face, I was getting all the oxygen I needed…”

If you like these tips click here for more. Regular performance of pHx strengthens as well as trains the core muscles. When warming up with pHx you’re fully prepped for maximum results with your workout whether that’s weight training, Pilates, or your favourite sport… with less stress. because the routine balances all muscle groups as well as the five neuro-endocrine-organ centres, normalizing body pH in 7-14 minutes..