A guide to diaphragmatic breathing and pelvic floor therapy - Ruth Health

A guide to diaphragmatic breathing and pelvic floor therapy

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Fast facts:

  • Diaphragmatic breathing is a simple yet powerful way to improve your pelvic health.
  • The exercise is particularly effective at treating tight pelvic floor muscles but anyone can use it to connect with their pelvic floor.
  • It involves taking deeper breaths by conscious use of the diaphragm — a large muscle at the base of the lungs that you use to breathe.
  • When practicing diaphragmatic breathing, your pelvic floor muscles contract and relax with each cycle of inhales and exhales.

Not enough can be said about the power of the breath. In addition to easing anxiety and sharpening your focus, bringing greater intention to this simple yet fundamental act can improve pelvic floor function.

A technique called diaphragmatic breathing is one of the best exercises for pelvic floor dysfunction and a simple way to support your pelvic health.

Read on to learn more about the relationship between diaphragmatic breathing and pelvic floor muscles and how to try the exercise at home.

What is the pelvic floor?

Your pelvic floor is a group of muscles, ligaments, and tissues at the bottom of your torso that support your pelvic organs: the bladder, bowels, and uterus.

It affects many areas of your health and wellness, including sexual pleasure, bladder/bowel control, posture, core strength, and so much more.

When pelvic floor muscles become too weak or too tight, a variety of issues may occur, including but not limited to:

  • Lower back pain
  • Problems with bladder and bowel control
  • Chronic painful sex
  • The positioning of your pelvic organs
  • Hip, back and/or shoulder pain
  • Shallow breathing

Anyone can develop pelvic health issues — your pelvic floor is impacted every day by movement and posture — but it is especially common during pregnancy and postpartum.

Different types of pelvic floor dysfunction require different solutions. (Contrary to popular belief, Kegels aren't a one-size-fits-all solution for all pelvic floor issues.)

Diaphragmatic breathing is particularly effective at treating tight, or hypertonic, pelvic floor muscles. However, anyone can benefit from it, as it offers a simple way to connect with your pelvic floor.

What is diaphragmatic breathing?

The diaphragm is a large muscle at the bottom of your lungs. It is the main muscle you use to breathe.

Diaphragmatic breathing, also referred to as abdominal breathing or belly breathing, involves the conscious use of the diaphragm to take deeper breaths. When practicing this type of deep breathing, you fill your lungs to their full capacity.

It offers numerous benefits including:

  • Relaxation
  • Improved muscle function during exercise
  • Lower blood pressure and heart rate
  • A stronger diaphragm
  • Greater lung efficiency

While diaphragmatic breathing is getting more buzz these days — for good reason —  it’s been used for centuries. It serves many purposes beyond pelvic floor training and recovery during pregnancy and postpartum, like helping singers control their vocal performance and expand their range.

Many singers practice diaphragmatic breathing exercises that are similar to those used in prenatal and postpartum pelvic floor work.

Some performers combine diaphragmatic breathing with vocal exercises such as deep humming and lip trills, which support deep use of the diaphragm while keeping the pelvic floor long.

Why is diaphragmatic breathing important for pelvic health?

Simply moving and bringing greater awareness to the pelvic floor muscles is a first step toward better pelvic health.

Diaphragmatic breathing is one of the easiest and most efficient ways to accomplish this. When practicing this breathing technique, your pelvic floor muscles contract and relax with each cycle of inhales and exhales.

Why not Kegels? They may be an appropriate strengthening exercise for some individuals with weak pelvic floor muscles, but not all. And if you’re experiencing tense muscles, Kegels can make matters worse.

How can I try diaphragmatic breathing?

Follow the steps below to do diaphragmatic breathing exercises at home.

  1. Lie flat on the floor or find a seated position.
  2. Relax as much as possible and place one hand on your stomach and one hand on your chest.
  3. Let your stomach expand while you inhale through your nose, keeping your chest as still as possible. Inhale for two to three seconds and slowly exhale.
  4. Repeat several times with your hands in the same position.

Watch Kimberly McFerron, our Head of Birthwork, demonstrate diaphragmatic breathing.

Pelvic floor training and recovery with Ruth Health

No two bodies are built the same, and at Ruth Health, we take an individualized approach to pelvic floor training and recovery.

Our 30-minute virtual sessions blend physical therapy with fitness to deliver the pelvic floor TLC that your body needs.

Book your session today.

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