Starting Position: Lie supine (on your back) on an exercise mat or firm surface, bending your knees until your feet are positioned flat on the floor 12 – 18″ from your buttocks. Extend your arms out to your sides, palms facing either up or down (illustrated) at, or near shoulder level. Breathe deeply for a 30 seconds relaxing your body and allowing gravity to gently pull your lower back and shoulders towards the floor.
Depress and retract your scapulae (pull your shoulder down and back) without increasing the arch in your low back or lifting your hips off the mat / floor. Hold this position throughout the exercise.
Hollowing Movement: Breathe normally and at the end of your breaths (end-tidal volume), perform the following actions individually at first, then combine them together:
- Perform a gentle “kegel” contraction without moving your hips or ribcage (the kegel contraction of the pelvic floor is the same contraction your would perform when resisting the urge to urinate).
- Draw your belly button towards your spine without moving your hips or rib cage (visualize narrowing your waist circumference without taking a deep breath). Any movement of the hips or rib cage indicates activation of your larger abdominal muscles (e.g. rectus abdominis).
- Combining both 1 and 2 above.
- Combining 1 and 2, but counting out loud while breathing normally (i.e. holding the contractions through normal breathing)
Exercise Progressions: Once your have spent time learning how to co-contract the muscles of the pelvic floor and core, independent of breathing, progress the exercise complexity by adding small movements in the lower extremity:
- Lift one leg 3 – 6″ (no more) off the mat and hold this position briefly (illustrated) without moving your torso (hips, shoulders or increasing your low-back arch).
- Heel slide, lifting the toes in one foot off the floor and slowly sliding the heel of one foot 3-6″ away from your body. without moving your torso (hips, shoulders or increasing your low-back arch)
This series of exercise movements activate your core muscles that are often neglected. Good core activity (independent of your larger, more superficial abdominal muscles like your rectus abdominis) helps stiffen your torso and stabilize your spine against injury. Try performing this exercise adjacent to a mirror that will allow you to monitor any undesired movement in the hips, ribs, shoulder or low-back.