Breath is the key to connecting to the deep abdominal muscles. With breath, the connections of the diaphragm pumping in and out of air forces the transverse abdominal to be like a corset. Being like a corset, this muscle pulls the torso contents in. The pulling in of the abdominals like a corset, we are going to call, the hollow. This is when the transverse abdominus engages. This corset-like muscle is responsible for flattening the abdominal wall and stabilizing the torso.
Breath is one of the best ways to encourage this action. There are physical connections between the diaphragm and the transverse abdominus. The breath is like a hydraulic pump. Inhalation causes the diaphragm to move downward, open the lower ribs and relaxation of the back. Exhalation releases the diaphragm up like a parachute towards your head. The lift of the diaphragm helps the lower abs engage. Consciousness of breath and it’s being three-dimensional is a great way to open the spine and connect to our internal support.
To Start: Lie on the back with knees bent and feet on the floor.
Breath & the diaphragm
Inhale into the lower ribs. Visualize the diaphragm floating downward. This downward movement is widening the lower torso with depth in the back
Count the duration of the exhale as the belly deflates. (Start with 8 counts. Each count the belly should sink deeper towards the sacrum. This is the hollow.
Repeat two more sets
Breath & the Hollow Place your hands near your navel
Inhale for 4 counts
Exhale (8 counts) and narrow your abdominals underneath your hands towards your navel
Exhale (8 counts), narrow again underneath your hands
Adding on, inhale
Exhale (8 counts), narrow and sink your abs towards your sacrum
Exhale and feel your abs narrow and sink towards your navel
Inhale and add on
Exhale (8 counts) narrow, sink and rise your abs up your torso.
Exhale, feel your abs under your hands narrow, sink and lift towards your head.
Now practice this in different position, sitting, on all fours, standing and in your pilates practice. Hollowing is essential for making change in your core. It is better to do a few exercises with hollowing than lots of repetitions with the abs bulging out. Practicing poor habits does not make you stronger.
* I would like to thank all of my teachers especially Irene Dowd for deepening my knowlegde about the body.