Breath and the Postpartum Core Connection

A woman smiles as she takes a calming breath.

Did you know that breathing exercises can help improve your core muscles? 

They can also help calm your nervous system to reduce stress, improve sleep and decrease the amount of aches and pains you feel. 

 If this got your attention, read on!

Here’s a Quick Breath Check to make sure you’re getting good quality, full inhales and exhales! 

1) Place your hands on the front of your rib cage, just over the belly. Inhale. Does your belly expand or does it tighten? Notice what you do naturally first, and then try to allow it to expand with the inhale and fall with the exhale.
2) Place your hands on the sides of your ribs. As you inhale, can you feel the ribs expand outward? As you exhale, can you feel them move downward and inward? First notice. Then try to allow them to expand with the inhale and fall with the exhale.
3) Place your hands on your chest. Does it rise and fall? How much? Notice first. Then try to minimize the amount of movement here so that you’re sending your breath further down to the belly and lower ribs.

As you take air in, picture it filling up a balloon. Your entire abdomen will expand. There is no perfect way to breathe. Everyone is different, but I find that trying to get as much expansion as possible out of the lower rib cage and belly while lessening movement at the chest and shoulders can help with getting deep inhales and exhales.

Give it a try. Take nice, slow breaths. ~5 seconds in and ~5 seconds out. In through nose and out through the mouth, or in and out through the nose as able.  

So, How Does This Help My Core??!

Now, place your hands back over the stomach and exhale through pursed lips. Can feel your abdominal muscles activate as the belly falls? If not, try extending the exhale on the next round. Keep breathing out a little longer than you normally would. Our bodies are wired to have the abdominal muscles activate automatically when you exhale. Oftentimes, it’s hard to feel this in early postpartum, so don’t strain but just keep at it. Keep your hands on the stomach as you breathe and feel for small signs that the muscles are twitching and activating. In time, you will feel them strengthen. (There are many exercises and tricks to help feel this connection so if it's challenging for you, sign up here to get help!)

The release is as important and the contraction! In order for our abs to contract and get stronger, they must first release. So, focus on inhaling and filling your trunk with air (think of the belly rising and ribs expanding outward in all directions) then exhaling and letting the muscles contract. 

This is the foundation that will set you up to build a strong core!


And how about Stress, Sleep and Pain… What can I do for that?!

You may notice after a few minutes of the above breathing exercise that you feel more relaxed. Your body has enterred a state where it feels safe and ready to rest, recover and rebuild. In our busy lives we often don’t activate this recovery system as much as our bodies are intended too. We spend a lot of time being active, moving and thinking. By slowing our breath, we signal to our body to take a break. During this break, the nervous system and cells in our body heal us and give us a sense well-being.

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