Breathing is easy, right? Everyone does it without thinking. And you may assume that you just breathe naturally, as you should, while you’re working out as well. This isn’t necessarily always the case, especially for new moms! Let’s talk about proper breathing during exercise.
1. Why is Breath Important?
Your breath is the foundation of your movement while you are working out. It determines how much pressure is built up in your abdomen during movement and where and how that pressure is distributed. We call this Intra-Abdominal Pressure (IAB). Your IAB can have a huge impact on how stable you feel during movement, especially full-body movements and if pressure is not distributed properly, it can exacerbate complications you may already have, particularly in regard to the pelvic floor.
2. How Can I Breathe Properly?
If you are new to fitness, or you are returning to fitness postpartum, I suggest starting with what we call foundational breathing. This is when you inhale at the beginning of the movement and then exhale throughout the entirety of said movement. For instance, if you were performing a squat, you would inhale before you begin your descent, then slowly exhale as you lowered down and continue to exhale until you were back to the standing position. This teaches your breath to coordinate with your body during movement and prevents breath-holding.
Holding your breath can be problematic, especially early postpartum, as many women “bear down” when they hold their breath, which means all of that intra-abdominal pressure gets pushed down towards the pelvic floor or straight out into the linea alba; both of which have already been under incredible strain through pregnancy and delivery. We don’t want to put any more pressure on those systems than absolutely necessary. So, a foundational breath helps you learn to distribute pressure evenly throughout a movement and not put undue pressure where it isn’t needed.
When you exhale during your foundational breath, make sure that you are engaging your transverse abdominals first and then the rest of your core to support you during your movement. You shouldn’t feel like you’re just sucking your belly in – you should feel a bracing of the core that keeps your upper body stable. Your inhale should be big and supportive – a 360-degree breath that fills you with the air you need to exhale through the whole movement.
3. Final Thoughts
This is called a foundational breath for a reason. You learn to coordinate breath and movement, so that you can move on to breathing through the hardest part of the movement. I’ll talk about that next week!