Let it go, let it go ….

Ok, so you’d be forgiven for thinking that the theme for this blog centres around a certain Disney film, but it’s actually about letting go of pulling in your tummy.  Apologies if you now have ‘that’ song stuck in your head for the rest of the day.  Sorry!

Habitually pulling in your tummy, is one factor that can disrupt core function and can be part of the pattern that contributes to back pain, pelvic floor issues, the development of a tummy gap, and even a hernia.  So, to avoid the discomfort that these issues bring, you’ve got to re-learn to relax.

Why we need to ‘Let Go’ of our abdominals

To achieve good core function, all the components of your core need to work together as a system.   ‘Holding on’ to some of those parts, prevents this system from working the way it’s designed to.  The ‘core’ is designed to work reflexively.  That means that they all do their jobs without you needing to direct them.  Holding your tummy in is directing the muscles and taking away their capacity to work reflexively.

What is the impact of ‘holding’ the abdominal muscles

The abdominal muscles have 3 primary roles in the body:

  • Assist Breathing
  • Movement
  • Stability

The abdominal muscles connect our ribs, pelvis and spine.   When we breathe in our ribs should expand and our diaphragm descends.  When our tummy muscles are being ‘held’, expansion of the ribs and movement in the abdomen is reduced and prevents the intra-abdominal pressure being evenly distributed.  So, the pressure will move to the areas of least resistance – normally forwarded or down – which is not great for the pelvic floor or a diastasis recti.

During movement the ‘core’ needs to transmit the forces through the body.  It enables this by being a conduit to dissipate forces.  When we lose the suppleness of the abdomen the forces and loads are unable to be dissipated which can get ‘stuck’ in an area leading to discomfort or injury.  For example, abdominal tension, limits the capacity for the leg to move behind us when walking.  This action maintains good Gluteal (buttocks) strength which supports the spine.  If the Gluteals are not working well the back muscles have to do, creating more tension and potentially reducing the space for the vertebral discs and nerves to glide through.

Without a reflexive core we cannot have ‘core stability’.  Core stability is the capacity to maintain control of your spine and pelvis during movement without compensatory movement.  A system that lacks flexibility breaks.  When the abdominals are being ‘held’ the spine loses its capacity to respond i.e. it’s flexibility.

How to break the habit and let go

Your aim is to relax your upper abdominal muscles.  The simplest way to practice this is in an ‘all fours’  position on the floor, as gravity is at its most assistive.   Place a cushion/towel or blanket under your knees if they get a bit uncomfortable.  Rest on your forearms on the floor and forehead on your hands.  Once in this position try relaxing and ‘letting go’ of your stomach muscles.    You may notice your tummy dropping towards the floor.  When you breathe in notice if there is movement in your tummy and not in your shoulders.  Repeat this exercise for a few minutes daily.  This may happen quickly for some and take longer for others.  So, keep working on it if it take longer.  It’s a simple corrective but that doesn’t make it easy.

Secondly, start to notice when you hold your tummy in when you’re in standing or sitting during the day.  When you recognise yourself doing it see if you can let go a bit.

Now to work on regaining the optimum balance in your core

The ‘Do More 4 Your Core’ programme offers an initial 3 session package where I help you to start redeveloping optimal alignment for your body, breathing techniques to reduce intra-abdominal pressure and how to engage your core proper to retrain your core and pelvic floor muscles to be functional, reflexive, responsive and supportive to your body, giving you the strength and confidence you want in your body.

If you feel that you could benefit from discovering more ways to strengthen your core to support your pelvic floor function, feel free to get in touch with me at info@ormskirkpilates.co.uk.

Are you a Tipper or a Tucker?

How your pelvis ‘sits’ within your body can have a huge impact on the capacity to:

  • Move well.
  • Transfer forces through the spine.
  • Support the internal and pelvic organs.
  • Breathe well.
  • Maintain the tone of all the muscles (that’s 72 in total) , amongst many other factors.

I think of the Pelvis as being like the Spaghetti Junction of the body.  It’s in the middle and everything travels through it.  All muscles are at their strongest/most supportive when they are at their optimum position.  Given how many muscles attach and have an influence on the pelvis, we can start to see how a change in one area can start to have an impact on other areas.

Therefore, pelvic alignment important for everyone but it can be a particularly important area to address if you are experiencing back pain, pelvic organ prolapse, urinary leakage, diastasis recti or any other symptoms that make you think twice or stop you from doing the things you love.

Where do you put your pelvis?

To help you find the positioning of your pelvis, I want you to identify if you ‘tip’ or ‘tuck’.

  • Place the heels of your hands on the hip bones (anterior superior iliac spine – ASIS) and your fingertips on the Pubis Symphasis (PS).

  • Does it feel like the PS is behind the ASIS (tipping – anterior tilt).

  • Or, does it feel like the PS is in front of the ASIS (tucking – posterior tilt) – I don’t do this very well.  It’s not my pattern.

  • Tip your pelvis forwards and backwards (you may need to soften your knees to achieve this). You should feel the PS move backwards and forwards in relation to the ASIS.  Pause when you feel like the ASIS and the PS are level with each other.  This is neutral and the positioning we are aiming for on a more consistent unconscious basis.  Does feel easy or hard for you to be in that position?  Does it feel comfortable or alien to your body?

What do these positions mean for our bodies?

If you found you were tucking your pelvis under …

When the pelvis tucks under (known as a Posterior Tilt) the pelvis is drawn backwards and downwards.  This position can increase the tension in the muscles at the back of your legs and pelvic floor.  When in this position over a prolonged time, the buttocks may develop a flattened look as it is more difficult to engage them effectively from this position.   Not great for Pelvic Organ Prolapse or incontinence symptoms.

If you found that you were tipping your pelvis forward ….

When the pelvis tips forward (known as an Anterior Tilt) the pelvis is drawn forwards and down.  The position can increase the tension in the muscles at the front of the hips and legs.  This pulls on the abdominal muscles that attach to the top of the pelvis making it harder for them to engage, manage intra-abdominal pressure and support the spine.  Not great for a Diastasis Recti.

How to achieve a more beneficially consistent position for your Pelvis?

Bringing greater awareness is the first step important when it comes to maintaining the integrity of our core.   Now that you are aware of the position your Pelvis prefers to rest in you can introduce more of the opposite into your day.  Notice if you have gone into a tipping or tucking pelvis position when you’re stood talking to a friend or waiting in a queue, or sat a work and ‘re-find’ neutral.

Introducing mobility and strengthening exercises can be used to bring balance back to the muscles and the best thing is that once our bodies know how to achieve them we can incorporate them into our daily exercise, which help continue to support the body.

If you want to find out more about how you can address the subject of this blog just get in touch.  Let me know what’s going on for you and we can have a chat about how I can help.

Core Training vs Core Exercise

How well the ‘core’ works is integral to so many aspects of our whole wellbeing, not just preventing back pain and ‘oops’ moments, although it is pretty great at doing those things and there is nothing a bit of discomfort to motivate us to make a change.  After all that is all the body is asking for when it offers us these symptoms.

In these cases redeveloping ‘core strength’ can be really helping in improving the situation.  However, not all ‘core strengthening’ is created equal.  To coin a phrase “it ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it…. that’s what gets results”.

There is an important distinction to be made between ‘core exercise’ and ‘core training.’ Core exercise involves doing a sets of repetitions of exercises often in isolation.  It doesn’t necessarily consider if the exercises are contributing to the functionality of the entire body.  This is not necessarily ‘bad’ but not beneficial if the body is already under strain.

On the other hand, ‘core training’, addresses functionality in the whole body.  It includes your breathing, your muscles, your existing patterns of engagement, resting tension and how you put all of that together (particularly when you moving) to establish a synergistic relationship throughout the body.

When addressing symptoms of core dysfunction its important to look at ‘core training’ as it incorporates the Reflexive Core.  This is the inner most part of the core system and is represented in the diagram below.  Our respiratory diaphragm is at the top of the balloon and the pelvic floor muscles are at the bottom of the balloon. These muscles are mirror images of each other.  The deep abdominal muscles wrap around connecting back to the front and the top and the bottom.



When all parts of the ‘core’ work well together they engage with each other and are able to automatically respond to our movements and changes in pressure e.g. sneezing, coughing, jumping, lifting, running, etc.  However, this inner group of muscles can be effected by the outer muscles in this area impacting on their capacity to work together.  So, whilst we want to support a certain area, we take a whole body approach to the redevelopment of ‘Core Strength’ to help the body to return to how it was designed to work.

If you’d like help to resolve any ‘Core’ issues (such as pelvic floor problems, diastasis recti/tummy gap), recurring back or pelvis pain that you may be experiencing feel free to reply to this email and I’ll let you know how I can help.

Breathing: Are you doing it right?

Does it really matter how you breathe?  In a word – yes. It can matter greatly where core and pelvic floor dysfunction is concerned.

Breathing is not something we really think about.  In the main it’s an unconscious process.  But the fact that we breathe 20,000 times a day surely means that it deserves to be executed well.  When done well, it delivers the maximum results to our health and can prevent core dysfunction.

However, it’s not uncommon for those experiencing symptoms of core and pelvic floor dysfunction to have breathing patterns that are not optimal to how the body works.

To explain why we should be breathing from our ribs and not from our bellies, I’m going to explain a bit about what’s going on inside of us. Understanding how our bodies have been designed to work will help you visualise what’s going on and empower you to use your breath more efficiently.

What happens when we breathe? / How should breathing happen?

When we breathe in, the respiratory muscles moves the rib cage in (ideally) 3 directions.  This decreases the pressure in the lungs which draws the air in.  When the respiratory diaphragm moves downwards during inhalation it increases pressure in the abdomen.  To manage that pressure the abdomen changes shape.  This can appear like the tummy is expanding, however,  the abdomen can’t really do that – more on that below.  What is actually happening is the abdominal wall is passively resisting the change in shape, which assists in the exhalation of the air.

So, what if we do breathe from our belly?

It’s not uncommon for people to adopt a pattern of belly breathing.  If you were to belly breathe the muscles of your abdominal wall are actively moved when you breath in, rather than passively moving in response to the expansion of the ribs.

The belly has been designed to change shape but not to expand unless it’s full of food or liquid, or there’s a baby inside.  It’s not designed to change shape with every breath.  So, if the muscles of the abdomen are actively moving it will bulge increasing the pressure in the abdomen.

As pressure always follows the line of least resistance, a bulge in the belly caused by this increase in pressure may move forward onto the Linea Alba, not great for a Diastasis.  This action may cause a weakening of the front line which will reduce the integrity of your core function.  Should the pressure go downwards, it may put excess pressure on the pelvic organs, and this could be part of the picture of pelvic organ prolapse.

The benefits of breathing from your ribs

So, now you know just a couple of negative things that can happen to your health should you ever fall into the habit of belly breathing, let’s move on to rib breathing and celebrate the benefits that this brings us!

  • It keeps the ribs and thoracic mobile.
  • Helps maintain bone density against osteoporosis and fractures.
  • It supports the management of intra-abdominal pressure.
  • It creates negative pressure in the pelvic and abdominal cavity on the exhale, creating a passive lift and toning of the pelvic floor muscles.
  • It releases tension from the shoulders as the thoracic spine moves with every inhale, almost like your very own massage with every breath. Amazing!

Simple ways to find if you are a belly breather

Lie on your back with one hand resting on your chest and the other on your tummy.

Allow yourself to relax and breathe normally.  Start to notice which hand moves first when you inhale.

Ideally the hand on your ribs move first, followed by your hand on your belly.  On the exhale the hand on the tummy lowers first followed by the hand on the ribs.  If you notice the hand on your tummy moving first you may be belly breathing.


If you feel you could benefit from finding out what your breathing patterns are and whether making changes could help you to support your core and pelvic floor function, feel free to get in touch with me at info@ormskirkpilates.co.uk.   In my ‘Do More 4 Your Core’ programme we use a series of techniques to address different breathing patterns to make them more optimal for resolving symptoms of core and pelvic floor dysfunction.