We rarely think of breathing as an exercise. Breathing is something, what we do automatically all the time, we do not need to think about taking another breath in or actively engage our muscles to breathe out. However, if we want to develop abdominal strength and maintain healthy relationship to our core, the way we breathe is important, as our breath has a potential to kick start reflective activation of our central stability system and enable all the core muscles to work in balance. Practicing breathing is an essential step if we want effectively engage abdominal muscle, strengthen the core and improve stability of the spine.
Following exercise will teaches 360-degree breathing technique. It is simple yet powerful movement which can be implemented in our day to day life. With frequent practice360-degree breathing will become natural way of breathing allowing us to improve core strength, increase effectiveness of your day to day movement and allow us to progress safely into more complex and advanced core exercises.
What is 360-degree breathing technique?
360-degree breathing is a breathing technique, which allows for expansion of torso in a 360 degree direction, using all sides of the core canister to draw air into the lungs. It actively engages breathing muscles to expand the core canister through the top of the diaphragm, side, front and the back ribs and the bottom pelvic floor allowing pressure from inhalation to be dispersed through the belly, the sides and the back evenly.
Why to practice 360-degree breathing?
360-degree breathing allows for complete expansion and contraction of the lungs without putting pressure on the front of the belly or creating pressure downwards to the pelvic floor. It initiates connection to our deep abdominal muscles Transversus Abdominis ensuring all other core muscles can activate properly and work in balance. 360-degree breathing helps to
- create a stronger core and enhance efficiency of your movement
- get rid of stubborn belly fat and create flatter tummy
- improve posture
- increase stability of the spine and reduce low back pain
- massage inner organs and aid digestion
- facilitate easier pushing during childbirth and rebuilt core postpartum
- improve pelvic floor function, regain bladder control and reduce urinary urgency
Who can practice 360-breathing technique?
This breathing exercise is suitable for anyone. It is safe exercise to practice after the childbirth , with diastasis recti (abdominal separation) or pelvic floor dysfunction. You might also find it beneficial if you suffer with low back pain. Those who are fit and healthy will benefit from practicing 360degree breathing as ability to access full breath and use all the abdominal muscles efficiently, will give more power and enhance your athletic performance.
You can practice 360-degree breathing exercise in any position, sitting on the chair, lying on your back with the knees bend, standing or lying on your side. The most effective position for you, will depend on your habitual way of breathing. If you have not done so already and have a moment have a look at different ways we breathe and than observe your own breath for a while. This will help you to choose the most suitable position for you. If you want to jump straight into the practice, lying down on your side with knees bend for stability and arm under your head for support will be the best option.
1. Which ever position you choose make sure that your spine and pelvis is in neutral alignment.
2. Observe your breath for a few moments, one by one bring your awareness to all parts of your core canister, feeling parts which move easily with your breath and noting the ones which feel more difficult to access.
Bring your awareness to your belly and feel if your abdomen lift on your inhale and lower with your exhale
Feel the sides of your body. Do your lower ribs move up and out to inhale and than soften as you exhale?
Do you feel any movement through your lower back and back of the ribs?
3. Bring your hands to the sides of your lower ribs with the thumb pointing backwards and fingers spread on the front ribs. This is optional, personally I prefer keeping my body free but many people find it easier to achieve 360-degree breath when feeling expansion of their torso under the fingers.
360-degree breathing technique
1. Inhale slowly through your nose and focus on feeling the full expansion of your torso.
- You should feel slight rising of your belly at the front
- Through the sides, you should feel the soft parts bellow your lower ribs expanding sideways and up
- Your back body should be rising slightly with your breath
Focus on putting more afford directing the air into places you find difficult to move.
2. Exhale slowly but fully, letting everything draw back. Feel your abdominals to engage gently as you breathe out
3. Repeat as many times as you like
Avoid: Puffing the belly, expanding just through the front of the body. Breathing just into your belly will increase pressure on the abdominal wall and limit the reflexive activation of central stability system. Unabling our deep core muscle (Transversus Abdominis) to engage and actively lengthen can create pooched belly or be underlying cause of abdominal separation (diastasis recti). It will also increase anterior pelvic floor pressure, making you to loose stability of the pelvic floor and potentially contribute to problems such as leaking urine when coughing or sneezing.
You might not be able to feel everything the first time round, so give yourself a time.
If you find it difficult, focus on each area separately. I am planning to write up useful strategies and exercises for tapping into our various breathing parts so check in later on the blog or sign up for the newsletter.
Alignment of our body parts is more important than we think as we are unable to regulate pressure in our core canister and contract the right muscles unless our body is in correct alignment. Check you pelvis and spine are in neutral alignment if you having trouble to connect to 360-degree breathing.
Tight fitting clothing, pregnancy or stress might be other factors impending 360-degree breath.
Practice and progression
Experimenting with practicing 360-degree breathing technique in different positions. Sitting, standing or kneeling will provide more challenge.
Work on lengthening your inhale and exhale. Count when you breathe in than make the next inhalation one count longer and try to keep it for five breath. Repeat the same with exhale or try to extend both at the same breath. You will be able to lengthen your breath with each practice.
It might all sound really basic but incorporating 360-degree breath into all your daily movement will make a massive difference in your core functionality and strength. Give it a go for few weeks and you will see a difference.
I am a yoga teacher, pilates instructor and personal trainer based in London, Battersea. I create accessible and effective home-based exercise routines and gently guide my clients to help them understand their body and its individual needs so they can find the right exercise, progress in their own speed and build a healthy movement habits into their daily life so they feel better now and in the future. Read my story here