Finding your deep abs is essential to training your core and for just about every Pilates exercise in the book. Accessing them, however, can be difficult. Here is the easiest path to discover your transverse abdominus (TVA for short), the deepest of all the abdominals.
- Sit upright in a chair or cross-legged on the floor. Align your head over your pelvis while maintaining the natural curve and keeping the spine long. This is no time for slouching. You need to sit in front of a mirror so you can monitor the movement of your shoulders.
- Place your hands on the sides of your waist with your thumbs pointed back and your index fingers forward.
- Inhale into the back and sides of your ribs (imagine a balloon filling up with air), not just your chest, without letting your shoulders rise to your ears. This can take a few tries to master. If breathing this way makes you light headed, take smaller inhales - just don't let your shoulders rise.
Who knew finding something in your own body could have so many steps? For the rest of the steps
- Exhale by pulling your abdominals toward your spine to force the diaphragm up into the lungs, creating the exhale. You should feel the diameter of your waist decreasing as you do this, since the TVA wraps around the waist and attaches in the back. It helps to make a soft "Haaaaa" sound while you exhale.
- Keep inhaling and exhaling in this manner.
- When exhaling you want to feel a sensation of the abdominals pulling up from the pubic bone to the belly button, kind of a zipping sensation. To help activate this sensation feel the pelvic floor pulling up, like doing a Kegel exercise.
- Once this feels natural (or at least easier), try it lying on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
This breathing is simple, easy and rather inconspicuous so you can practice at your desk! I have a friend that breathes this way at every stop light (she keeps her hands on the wheel though). Integrate using your TVA when you lift weights, so you're working your deep abs (and helping to stabilize your torso) as well.