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You are listening to Episode 10 of She's Not Selfish. Today I'm going to do something a little bit different. I am going to share with you some of what I actually teach my real-life clients on a very regular basis. This is information that I've realized that every woman that I've come across has needed to learn and be coached in. I'm a big believer in accessibility to quality information from qualified sources. So I'm going to walk in that today and teach you as though you're my very own client. Okay? And let's just be honest. I'm kind of a nerd. I love teaching this stuff. So it's going to be fun and educational and I cannot wait. So let's get to it. All right, mama. Here we go. 


Okay. So right off the bat, we're going to start with a hands-on activity. And I don't want to give you too much context right now because I don't want the results to be biased. But don't worry, I'm going to fill you in on everything momentarily. 

So as long as you're not driving, I want you to sit up nice and tall and I'm going to have you place one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly. And as we're here, we're just going to be breathing normally and paying attention to how our inhales and our exhales feel in our body.

I want you to pay attention to any time you feel your body pressing into either one of those hands, or anytime you feel your body drawing away from either one of those hands.

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Is it happening when you inhale? When you exhale? Do you not feel any movement? You can also take either hand and place it on your rib cage. Take a couple more breaths and observe if you feel any movement in your rib cage and when you feel movement in your rib cage as well. So just take note of what you feel going on as you inhale and exhale, really paying attention to where and when you feel movement happening. Be it in your belly, your rib cage, your chest, etcetera. Okay?


Okay. So once you have a sense of what's going on as you inhale and exhale. I want you to just kind of tuck away your results in your mind. We're gonna come back to that in just a minute. I also want to add that if you had trouble feeling anything, that's okay too. Okay. 


So whatever your results, there's no good or bad. There simply is what is. Hold on to that. We're going to come back to in a minute. For now, I want to give you some context. Okay. So any time I start working with a new client, whether she is pregnant or postpartum, one of the very first places that I assess is her breathing patterns and her breathing habits. There is actually a really important link between core function and our breathing. And the link is our diaphragm. 


So when I say core, usually we have an idea in our heads as to what our core is. And a lot of times people will immediately jump to the six-pack muscles, right? Rectus abdominals. And yes, that is certainly part of your core, but it is only one small piece. Your core is not a muscle. It is a dynamic system of muscles, plural, and connective tissue. It consists of multiple layers and it wraps around your body 360 degrees and it has a lid or a top and a floor or a bottom. So 360 degrees around your body with a top and a bottom, multiple layers of muscles and connective tissues. That is your core. 


Okay. So right now we're going to strip back the layers of the core all the way down to the deepest layer, and that is what we're gonna talk about right now, for this episode. 


So when we get down to the deepest layer of the core. Remember how I said your core wraps 360 degrees around your body. So if we're looking at your body from the front, the deepest layer of your abdominal wall is called transversis abdominis. Transversis abdominis is a very large, powerful, important muscle that spans from your sternum all the way down to your pubic bone and wraps around your body. So it's not just in the front. It wraps all the way around. And it's connected in the front vertically by a strip of connective tissue called the linea alba. And really quickly, I want to let you know that the linea alba is a very complex structure of connective tissue. And it actually the structure of it is different in different locations vertically down your midline. So it's really just an impressive feat of engineering. The linea alba. 


The linea alba is a really important part of any conversation when it comes to diastasis rectus abdominis, also known as abdominal separation. Which we're not going to get into right now. But I just wanted to point that out. So we have transversis abdominis and that connective tissue, the linea alba.


So then if we turn you around, so we're looking at your back now, we can see transversis abdominis wrap around the sides of your body to your back. Then within your spine you have these very small stabilizing muscles called the multivitis. And the multivitis is like this intricate system of muscles that are also part of your deep core system that works to provide stability when you're moving, lifting, et cetera. 


Now that we've covered the front back and sides of the deep core system, let's talk about the top and bottom of this system. So the bottom, or the floor of your core, is actually your pelvic floor. How fitting, right? And your pelvic floor is it's own dynamic, complex system of muscles and connective tissues. And in its own right, your pelvic floor serves your body and some very important major ways. And one of those is as a contributor to this overall core system to provide your body with stability and strength.


And now we've made our way back to the diaphragm, which is the top, or lid, of your deep core system. And perhaps now you can see why this system is sometimes referred to as the core canister because it has 360 degrees around the sides as well as a top and a bottom. And your diaphragm is a muscle that resides beneath your lungs and facilitates breathing.


And remember, previously I said that your diaphragm is one of the links between your core and your breathing patterns or habits. Actually, your entire deep core system as a whole is responsive to your breathing. It's the way that it has been designed and created. 


All of these individual components that we've talked about are responsive every time you breathe. But more important than the individual components, the system as a whole is responding together. And it's that synergistic response that is contributing to your core function and the stability that is being generated when you move, lift, walk, run, etcetera, whatever it is you're doing.


So now I want you to recall the activity that we did at the very beginning and start to remember what you felt as we were doing that breathing exercise. And as you're doing that, I want to share two of the most common breathing patterns that I come across. And I want to talk about why they're problematic. And then from there, we'll talk about what our breathing should look like and should feel like based on the way that our bodies and our deep core systems are designed.


And real quick, I need to add that you may hear some crying in the background, my baby boy woke up maybe from hearing me record this podcast episode, and he needs to put himself back to sleep. So if you hear crying, it's just my youngest working through some stuff this evening.


So the first breathing pattern that I very frequently come across is people using their secondary respiratory muscles like they're the primary ones. So our secondary respiratory muscles reside in our shoulders, necks, upper backs. So when we're performing this type of breathing pattern, I often call a chesty breathing. Because all of the movement is happening in our chests rather than really being sourced by our diaphragm. And there's a couple of issues with this. One issue is that it can create a lot of tension in our necks, shoulders and upper backs because those muscles are constantly being called upon and activated. It can also lead to problems for the lumbar spine or your low back because of the repetitive flexion that it creates in the lumbar spine.


We take about twenty-three thousand breaths every day. That is a lot of repetition. And when we're doing this chesty breathing, it's creating this very slight flexion in our low spine and over the course of time, twenty-three thousand times every single day of our lives. You know, it's not optimal for the back. So there's that going on as well.


And then thirdly, this type of breathing can trigger our sympathetic nervous system and actually contribute to stress. And I don't know about you, but I certainly do not need more stress in my life. So dialing back this chesty breathing can actually be helpful if we're trying to be more zen. 


The second breathing pattern that I see often. Let me actually rephrase that. I've seen this breathing pattern with every single client that I've ever worked with. And as a refresher, I work with women who are pregnant and postpartum. So this is really common for women in this population. And I like to call this one the tummy suck. It's where on inhale, we suck in our tummies. A lot of people are really surprised to learn that's actually backwards. When we inhale, our bellies should be gently relaxing and releasing. And when we exhale, we should feel that gentle draw in and up. 


But a lot of times what we're doing is when we're inhaling, we're sucking in. And I think a lot of this has to do with the pressure that we put on ourselves, or that we feel from society and from our culture to have that tape tummy.


So we suck in because we feel like, "Uh, I don't want my stomach to stick out". But we're actually going against the design of our body and creating and perpetuating a habit that is compromising our core function. So that's problematic, right? That's definitely not ideal, but that's what a lot of us are doing and I'm really curious to know, I'm really wanting you to identify if that's something that you're doing. Is that something that you took note of when we did that activity? Did you notice that you're sucking in on inhale? If so, that's the thing we need to start paying attention to and recalibrating because it's really important for your core function. Okay.


So in the absence of poor breathing habits and patterns, let's talk about what is happening with our deep core system when we're breathing. So when we inhale, our lungs, of course, fill up with air. Right? And when we exhale, the air is ejected out. How does this happen? Well, your diaphragm is the muscle that is helping facilitate inhalation and exhalation. so when you inhale your diaphragm contracts downward to help pull that air into your lungs and that downward contraction of the diaphragm impacts everything below it. It's like a domino. It creates this chain reaction all the way down the deep core system.


So as the diaphragm contracts downward, it changes the pressure within the core canister. Transversis abdominis gently relaxes and the pelvic floor also shifts downward. And then when you exhale, the diaphragm recoils and the pelvic floor responds as well, by also shifting upwards and transversis abdominis gently draws in and up as well. 


Julie Weeb is a public floor physical therapist who compares the deep core system to a piston. Because of this motion that's happening during inhalation and exhalation where the system shifts downward during inhalation and upward during exhalation. And I want to add that during normal breathing, all of this is very subtle. It's not big, loud movements. It's small, gentle, subtle movements, but movement nonetheless. Okay. 


So in order for this to all be happening, it's really important that our diaphragm is being given the opportunity to function as it was intended and designed. So as you're sitting here now listening, I want us to practice something, okay? So if you are a person who tends to do the chesty breathing thing or the tummy suck thing, I want you to again sit up nice and tall, roll shoulders back and down. And while you're here, just get comfy and try to let go of any tension that you're holding on to. Relax your jaw, relax your face. And as you inhale, you're going to think about, you're going to visualize and imagine your diaphragm contracting downward. And you're going to let your belly just very gently rise up and expand outward. You're not forcing your belly out. You're just letting it gently go as your diaphragm shifts down. Again, this is all as you inhale. 


And then as you exhale, you might notice that your belly very subtly and gently comes back in, again you're not forcing it in. You're just letting it come back as your diaphragm lifts back upward. 


This is how our breathing should look. Our diaphragm should be the primary driver. Not our chest, not all the muscles up in her neck and our shoulders and our back, it's the diaphragm. Which is shifting down as we inhale, our bellies are gently expanding outward, relaxing outward.


And then as we exhale, it all gently comes back in. It's so simple, right? I mean, breathing is such a simple thing. You almost ask yourself, "How could I be doing that wrong? I mean, isn't breathing like fundamental to being human and alive?"


Yeah. But over time, from stress and from again, the expectations and pressure that we adapt to this feeling like, "Oh, I can't relax my bell., I can't let it just hang out there, I gotta suck it in." You know, we create these habits that start to make something that is, in fact, very unnatural, feel natural. So then once we start to re-learn and become reacquainted with the actual design of our bodies, it can feel kind of funky at first, like, "Wait, are you sure this is right?" Like if you're thinking that right now, I totally get it. And like I said, everyone I've ever worked with is going through the same thing. So you are not alone. And if you're like a yogi and this is all like second nature to you. Right on. 


So we've covered quite a bit of ground. I try not to get too technical with you. And honestly, there is so much more to say about the function of our deep core system in relation to breathing. But I don't want to get too much into the weeds with you, and I want to be mindful of your time as well.


So I want to leave you with some suggestions and some ideas as to how you can continue to practice this and apply it moving forward. So first, one thing I want to point out is that sometimes we observe that one side of the diaphragm may be functioning quite well, but maybe the other side is a bit restricted. So that's something that you can start to be mindful of as well as your breathing, really focusing and again, visualizing, thinking about the diaphragm as a whole, descending and trying to create that balanced movement downward.


You can do this sitting, standing, lying down. A really great thing to do is to lay down on your back with your knees bent and place one hand on your belly and one hand on your rib cage, and take some breaths. And on inhalation, as you're visualizing your diaphragm descending down, just allowing your belly to expand into your hand and feeling the expansion of your rib cage. And then as you're there, you can also send your focus to your back. You should feel a gentle expansion of your back into the floor so you can start to look for that as well. 

And then once you've done that, you can rollover onto your belly. So just laying flat on the floor and you can feel your belly expanding into the floor as you inhale, feel your rib cage, expand into the floor. And again, we're looking for three hundred and sixty degrees of expansion all the way around your torso because again, your deep core system is 360 degrees all the way around.

 So from here, the next level is something called deep core connected breathing. At least that's what I call it, anyways. It kind of goes by different names depending on who you're talking to. But it's the process of becoming very intentional about the concentric and eccentric contractions of transversis abdominis and the pelvic floor in order to rehabilitate the deep core system. And then from there to generate a lot of stability and strength, specifically during movements that are challenging for the abdominal wall.

So if you're interested in moving beyond diaphragmatic breathing and really learning more about deep core connected breathing, stay tuned until the very end of the episode. I'm going to share some details about an upcoming master class that I'm teaching and we're going to dive deep into deep core system rehab in that master class.

Okay, momma, we have reached the end of this episode. And I just want to say that you are such a trooper and a champion for hanging on till the end. I know that we covered a lot of ground. I know that some of this stuff sounds kind of like, "Say what?" But it's really beneficial information that you have gained. And I've really enjoyed sharing with you some of what I teach my clients. So thanks for that opportunity. 

If you feel like you've learned something today. Leave me a review. Let me know. I'm so honored to have this time with you. I know that time is one of our most valuable resources. Scratch that. I think it's the most valuable resource. So thanks for sharing some of yours with me. And I'll talk to you next time.

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