In the previous blog titled 'Take a break: Cat/Cow', I introduced the term active rest. Rest is a very important part of any exercise plan or routine. Active rest is a great way to pace your self between sets, take a moment to check in with your body and make sure you are ready to continue. So next time you are exercising, remember to periodically take an active rest.
During pregnancy try and make sure your active rests incorporate the following:
- Slow, deep breaths. Aim for a 4-6 second inhale and 4-6 second exhale
- Simple gentle rhythmic motions. This can be rocking your body side to side, or your pelvis into and out of a pelvic tilt, lifting and lowering in child's pose... Just pick a simple movement, reverse it and repeat it
- Couple the movement of choice with your breathing
All three of these points will allow you to take your mind off any intricate physical activities and focus it on the most basic primal action of breathing. This is a recipe for relaxation. And most importantly it is great at preparing you for your Big Day.
So not only would you have spent months exercising and looking after your body physically, you would also have been taking yourself through some basic birthing practice.
It sounds silly, but many adult's have forgotten how to breathe properly. There are various reasons that can trigger faulty breathing patterns: stress, sitting to much and poor posture, to name a few. Pregnancy can also be a trigger it due to pregnancy posture causing your diaphragm to become stretched and less effective at its job.
Your diaphragm is the primary breathing muscle. When it becomes less affective at performing its primary function of breathing, other muscles kick to help. These muscles are known as your accessory breathing muscles and they mainly live around your neck, shoulders and chest wall. Accessory muscles have their own primary function beyond helping with breathing, so if they are forced to work harder to keep you breathing, they soon become fatigued. It's no wonder overuse of these muscles can lead to headaches, shoulder pain, neck pain and more. These are all conditions your pre-natal chiropractor will have experience treating.
If you are struggling with headaches, neck and/or shoulder pain during pregnancy, it is definitely worth seeking advice from your pre-natal manual therapist before settling for months of painkillers; or worse residing yourself to living with the pain.
If you are struggling with taking a breath IN or OUT for the duration of 4 seconds minimum, it may be because you are not breathing effectively with your diaphragm. I have linked a great video to show you how your diaphragm is suppose to work.
Let's get to how you can improve your diaphragm breathing....
Lay on your back somewhere comfy, place one hand on your tummy and the other on your chest and follow these check points to troubleshoot your breathing technique:
- You should feel your belly rising as if it is inflating like a balloon. Followed by your rib cage rising.
- There should be no movement of your shoulders towards your ears. Let them relax.
- There should be no movement of your head backwards or from its neutral slightly chin tucked position.
- You should feel your rib cage and tummy slowly lowering like a deflating balloon.
- As you come to the end of the passive out breath, try to force the last bit of air out of your lungs by pulling in with your diaphragm. As if you are trying to narrow your waist at the lower brim of your ribs. This is where your diaphragm lives.
- By doing this last movement you are challenging your diaphragm to contract and become stronger. You will also feel your pelvic floor muscles tighten towards the end of this forced exhalation. (Emphasising the squeeze of your pelvic floor is a great way to work on strengthening these muscles post-partum).
- Avoid rounding or lifting your shoulders
... with EVERYTHING. Or just use this as a way of relaxing before sleep.