I left you last month working on your belly breathing because it’s something that a lot of people need to actually work on (it simply isn’t automatic in this day and age). I hope you took the time to do so. If not, start now. Re-read last month’s column titled “I Have a Fascination with Breath.”
While I’m trying to keep this article basic and to the point, it has honestly been one of the most challenging for me to write. There are so many things I want to include and so many directions in which to go. But, too much information is, well, too much and while I want to give it all to you, I also don’t want to overload you. So some of it will just have to wait…
Okay, now we get to talk about using the core and our breathing in a workout situation so you can get the most out of it. I’m specifically talking to you about the 3 formats I’m teaching, but you can take this technique and put it into any workout you may be doing.
When people think core, they often just think about the area around their belly button. But the core is so much more than that. It includes your abdominal muscles, pelvic muscles, mid and lower back muscles, glutes and even your hip flexors.
The benefits for creating core strength are not simply cosmetic. It includes improved posture, better stability, reduced back pain and safer everyday movement; i.e. lifting groceries, carrying children and shoveling snow.
Let’s get straight to it and talk about a technique that will be helpful to you across all formats. It’s called Lateral Breathing.
Here is how it works.
The next step is- while keeping your inner corset muscles turned on in that position, you breathe into your rib cage in a 3-dimensional manner. Bring the breath to the front, sides and back of your ribs. At first it may help to actually put your hands on your rib cage to tell your brain where to send the breath. And then you can actually feel whether your hands are moving outward with your inhalation and inward on your exhalation (I find it easier for beginners of this technique to inhale and exhale through the mouth).
This may take some practice.
Depending on the kind of movement you are doing. You can shift your breathe to a more forceful exhale to work the core even more. Imagine blowing out birthday candles on a cake.
To take this technique up another notch, blow out the birthday candles with a sighing sound of either “whoooo,” “huuh” or (my favorite) “haaaw”. The addition of those sounds will really get your core moving.
I’m going to discuss Zumba and Zumba Toning (Zumba with weights) together. They are completely different formats, but enough of the moves are similar that we can group them together.
For Zumba and Zumba Toning, lateral breathing is key throughout. I want you to have a great time dancing, but keep reminding yourself to turn on your inner corset and continue bringing your breath into the back and sides of rib cage (make sure not to hold your breath). You will get a better workout, sweat more and work your core. Start there, but then once that becomes easy, you can progress to thinking more about your core throughout class.
For instance, when we do a Merengue March. Stand up tall, with your corset engaged and create a diagonal movement between your waist and your thighs. Now you are working on your obliques.
How about when we keep the lower body in a wide 2nd position and move the upper body (only) in a lateral movement side to side? If you have your corset engaged and your breath packed down (keep breathing), you’ll protect your back more and work your obliques.
When I ask you to yell in class, you are working your core. When you yell, you automatically engage your Tranversus Abdominus (TA) giving yourself a core workout. So don’t be afraid to yell. In fact, yell louder to work it more. But be sure the sound is coming from your abdomen and not higher.
And when you bring your knee towards your chest in a move, try to exhale as your knee come towards you and inhale as you release the knee down.
With Zumba Toning, I am able to give you a number of breathing cues, but I do not do so during regular Zumba because it was created as a “less talk, more party” format. –Which means you’ll need to remind yourself more.
Barre is the most mindful of the formats I teach and I am able to explain things more and correct form if needed. But even so, there is still no time for long winded explanations in class. Hopefully you’ll be able to get a better base knowledge here for the work we do and put it into practice to reap the most out of your workouts with me.
“When you are focused on your breath, you become intimately in touch with your mind, body and emotions and very much in the moment, which improves performance.
Because we are often working small, isometric moves or even very slow- full range of motion moves, we need to focus on our breath; connect to it- pull the air in and fully expel it out.
The mind body connection is powerful and so important in Barre. By focusing on your breath more, you get out of your head and allow the body the freedom to get done what it knows it must do.
Lateral breathing is perfect throughout Barre as well. Even when we move to the floor for our core work, it is still in place. We have just simply changed the level we are working on.
On your back, you are still engaging the corset (TA muscle), only very often, you are now focused on creating a “C” curve as well. Each time you exhale, you bring your attention back to the curve and draw your belly button even closer down. During these times, I really encourage you to breathe loud enough to be heard. I would even go so far as to suggest you sigh in a “huuh” or a “haaaw” sound, to get the most out of it.
While in a plank or push-up position. I want you to draw the belly button up to your spine, engage the corset, and draw your ribs down toward the abdominal area. Not only will this strengthen core, but it will also protect your back.
I believe that using breath is not only one of the easiest ways to do so, but also one of the safest and most targeted way to create the look of flat abs and a strong core.