By: Matthew Varca, PT, DPT, PRC
Part 3: Correcting Your Breathing
In part 1 and 2 of the “Breathe Your Way To Improved Performance” series we developed an appreciation for the respiratory diaphragm and examined how poor breathing habits may lead to limited range of motion, poor posture, dysfunctional abdominal performance, and an inability to rest and recover from intense training. If you have not read part 1 and 2, I would strongly suggest searching our blog and brushing up before continuing with this article.
In the final part of this series we will be focusing on a specific exercise technique developed by the Postural Restoration Institute ©, that is designed to retrain the diaphragm, realign the body, and improve breathing instantly. Below is an exercise called the 90/90 Hip Lift with Balloon. We will first learn how to perform the activity before breaking down its components and understanding the WHY behind some of its steps. Grab a balloon and give it a try!
Disclaimer: The 90/90 Hip Lift with Balloon exercise may not be an appropriate starting point for everyone who wants to begin to optimize their breathing. Be cautious when blowing up balloons, may lead to increased reports of shortness of breathe and/or dizziness.
Exercise: 90/90 Hip Lift with Balloon
“WOW that’s a ton of steps for one exercise!” is what I often hear. Each step has a distinct purpose designed to properly anchor the pelvis and position the diaphragm for optimal respiration. Lets further break down the components of this exercise:
- The posterior pelvic tilt with feet on the wall: This will allow you to find and feel hamstring muscle working on the back of the legs to assist in posteriorly rotating a pelvis. This will assist in decreasing excessive arching in the low and mid back.
- The ball squeeze: The ball squeeze will cause you to feel the muscle on the inside of your thighs engage. Proper facilitation of these muscles will assist in putting the pelvis and pelvic floor in the proper position to coordinate action with the respiratory diaphragm during breathing.
- The right reach: In part 1 of the series we discussed how the diaphragm is asymmetrical from right to left side. The left side of the diaphragm is thinner, flatter, and has a difficult time assuming a dome shape making it a poor breathing muscle. The right reach as you exhale allows you to find and feel your left abdominals to properly assist in doming a left diaphragm.
- The balloon: The balloon is an amazing tool that serves many purposes. In short, the resistance of the balloon allows you to engage abdominals as you exhale to assist in doming the diaphragm (see cool moving image below). Once you have finished exhaling, your body now has to learn how to take a relaxed breath in through the nose while maintaining proper intra-abdominal pressure (very important for spine and pelvic stability / health).
The above exercise should begin to put you on the right path to correcting your breathing. However, it may not be enough for some with strong improper breathing habits. In this case, please reach out to myself for an evaluation where I can identify the true nature of what is preventing you from performing at your best!