Perform 3 sets of 5 two-second long draw ins each day. You should be able to take 10 diaphragmatic breaths in a row, each followed by a draw in, before progressing.
Now that you have activated the diaphragm, the lumbopelvic muscles will be much easier to activate. The muscles of the lower abdomen and pelvic floor help to control and stabilize the lumbar spine and hips. Activating these muscles can help to reduce pain and improve function in other areas of the body that require control of the low back and pelvis in order to function effectively.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and the soles of your feet resting on the surface you’re lying on. Take a few diaphragmatic breaths, and then place the index and middle fingers firmly just inside each hip bone so that you can feel the abdominal muscles contract as you perform the exercise.
Start by taking a diaphragmatic breath through the nose. As you exhale and the belly falls, gently draw the area below the belly button up and in towards your spine. Imagine lifting the genitals into the body, or doing up the zipper on your jeans using your belly button. This will activate the lumbopelvic muscles, and you may feel the muscle under your index and middle fingers tightening.
Don’t worry if you don’t feel anything tightening under your finger, it can be hard to feel when these muscles are underactive, and they will become more evident with practice.
• Inhaling while drawing in. When you are unfamiliar with these muscles, it will be instinctive to draw the belly button in by inhaling and sucking the stomach upwards. This is not the type of contraction that we want. Perform the draw in as you exhale, so that by the time you have fully exhaled, you have fully drawn in.
• Clenching the stomach muscles. When you are unaccustomed to activating the deep abdominal muscles, you may try to tense the superficial abdominal muscles. We want to stay away from clenching these during this exercise, as it can lead to restricted movement. Clenching these superficial muscles can feel similar to trying to force a bowel movement, while the correct drawing in maneuver should be a gentle pull upwards and inward.
You should be able to take 10 diaphragmatic breaths in a row, each followed by a draw in, before progressing to the next exercise.