Hypopressive Breathing: Definition, Benefits & 5 Easy Exercises
Are you a new mom looking to get back to your pre-pregnancy body or an athlete hoping to enhance your performance? Hypopressive exercises can help you improve your core muscles to achieve many different goals for your body.
Since the unique method of hypopressive breathing began, it’s been discovered that these exercises can improve our wellness in various ways.
If you’ve been following the traditional core and abdominal exercises and haven’t seen the results you were hoping for, I’ve been in your shoes! That’s why I’m going to share a popular alternative method. Continue reading to learn about what hypopressive breathing is, the benefits, and simple exercises.
What is Hypopressive Breathing?
In simple terms, hypopressive breathing is breathing in a way that reduces pressure in the body. Hypopressive exercises allow you to practice specific breathing methods. As a result, pressure is decreased in the abdomen. This provides many great benefits for the body. Keep reading to learn what they are!
This method of breathing was created in the 1980s. Dr. Marcel Caufriez used it to rehabilitate women’s pelvic floor after childbirth. He discovered the technique when he was working with a patient suffering from uterine prolapse.
To understand hypopressive breathing, it helps to know why there would be pressure in the abdominal cavity and pelvic floor to begin with. When there’s too much tension in the diaphragm muscle, it tenses up and pushes the organs against the abdominal and pelvic floor muscles. Everyday activities like lifting, pushing, sitting, running, and common exercises can add more pressure. Too much pressure can result in imbalances in the body, pain, and more.
Unlike traditional abdominal techniques which increase pressure resulting in the belly bulging out, hypopressives decrease pressure. These exercises are also the safest way to restore deficient abdominal and pelvic floor muscles.
The Benefits of Hypopressive Breathing
Many benefits have been discovered that result from hypopressive breathing. Nowadays, it’s used to help improve overall health and wellness for men and women. Bodybuilders including Arnold Schwarzenegger even adopted the technique. They call it the abdominal vacuum and use it to visually reduce their waist size and highlight their thoracic muscles. Additionally, hypopressives are sometimes used during yoga practice.
Most commonly, hypopressive breathing exercises relieve pelvic floor dysfunction for postpartum women. However, there are countless more benefits related to these breathing exercises including:
- Waist size reduction
- Abdominal training; toned abs and stronger cores
- Improved athletic performance
- Decreased back pain and stiffness
- Prevention of or reduced urinary inconsistencies
- Better posture and balance
- Promotion of healthy circulation
- Reversed organ prolapse
- Help with sleep issues or disorders
- Hernia prevention
- Enhanced sexual function and performance
- Correct posture
- Boost of lung capacity
- Reduced constipation
- Improved blood flow
- Alleviate swollen legs
- Reduced stress and anxiety
- Prevention of muscle or bone injuries
- Minimizes risk of injury
How Hypopressive Exercises Work
With so many advantages, you may be wondering how hypopressive exercises work. Here are some ways hypopressives can positively affect our bodies:
- Pressure is decreased in the thoracic, pelvic, and abdominal cavities; whereas, many of our daily activities are hyperpressive and pressure is increased.
- The exercises can be a part of a low pressure fitness program which is great for women who have just given birth or for someone with an injury.
- Unlike approaches that focus on one aspect, hypopressive exercises can improve overall wellness.
- Chest expansions help with the respiratory system.
- Hypopressives don’t strain muscles.
- Abdominal muscles are contracted involuntarily. This helps make the tummy look flat even during a relaxed posture.
- The vertebra join is decompressed which can reduce pain.
- Breathing techniques enhance the pelvic floor muscles’ strength.
- Oxygen levels are increased.
- Muscle imbalances are corrected and muscle tone is restored.
5 Hypopressive Exercises You Can Do at Home
Hypopressives are considered low pressure fitness. While they require control, they aren’t hard on the body and can be done in the comfort of your own home with no equipment needed.
The exercises are created to focus on the pelvic floor and abdominal muscles. Breathing is the key component and the diaphragm is the focal point as it helps to activate abdominal muscles that improve wellness. It’s important to be mindful of each exercise to ensure you’re doing them correctly. Over time, they will become more natural.
The basic exercise, no matter which position, starts by following these steps:
- Your back should be straight but relaxed. Think of your posture as if you’re trying to make yourself grow taller.
- With your chin down lengthening your neck and spine, breathe in through your nose as you naturally would. Then, release all of the air until your abdomen is contracting by itself like normal.
- Suck your abdomen muscles in towards the spine and hold for several seconds without breathing (this time can increase with more practice).
- Fill your lungs with air, then completely relax.
- Return to your normal breathing.
You can follow this technique several times in the following positions...
Exercise 1: Sitting
Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. You can also sit on the floor criss-cross or with your legs straight out. Place your hands on your knees, then follow the steps for hypopressive breathing.
Exercise 2: Lying Down
Lie on your back with legs bent and your arms down by your side. Tuck your chin down while following the breathing method.
Exercise 3: Kneeling on The Floor
Kneel down on the floor with your legs under you and sit on your heels. Place your hands on your thighs. Bend your back slightly forward while performing the breathing techniques.
Exercise 4: Standing and Leaning Forward
In a standing position with feet spread apart, slightly bend your knees. Place your hands on your legs right above your knees while flexing your torso. Bend your back slightly forward, let the weight of your body fall towards your feet, then perform breathing exercises.
Exercise 5: Plank Exercise
Just like a standard plank, this exercise puts your whole body to work. Therefore, it’s ideal for those who want to sculpt their body while reaping other benefits of hypopressive breathing.
On all fours, face your body towards the floor with your forearms and the tips of your toes. Make sure your elbows are parallel with your shoulders and relax your back. Your body should represent a straight line and your abs should be stretched out. Hold this position while performing the breathing technique.
Aside from these 5 exercises, you can also use other postures to perform hypopressive breathing. Some positions may be easier than others or give better results. This depends on the individual so feel free to try several out and mix and match.
Tips for Hypopressive Exercises
The key to hypopressive breathing practices working is to make sure you’re doing it right. And, there are some tips and tricks to ensure you see results.
- Sucking in the stomach isn’t all it takes to perform hypopressive breathing. Posture and breathing are most important during hypopressive exercises. If you’re doing the exercise right, you should see a prominent collar bone and your belly button moving in towards your spine. Feel free to practice in front of a mirror.
- You should not be able to speak when completing the exercise if it’s being done correctly.
- For best results, practice exercises a few times per week. It can take 1-2 months to see results.
- After a couple of months of completing the exercises, you can decrease the number of times per week to 1 to 2 for maintenance.
- When you’re just starting out, you’ll need to focus on each step to ensure you’re following them properly. Eventually, your brain will memorize the steps and the exercises will become more natural.
- You can do these exercises while sitting in the car or while relaxing on the beach. It’s easy to do out and about!
- Don’t do hypopressive exercises right after eating or right before bedtime.
- Pregnant women should consult with a doctor before performing hypopressive breathing practices as it could result in early labor.
- Hypopressive exercises are easy enough for anyone and, if nothing else, can provide relaxation.
- After childbirth, 6 weeks of recovery time is recommended. Keep that in mind before beginning hypopressives to improve pelvic floor muscles.
- If you’re experiencing pain in joints or muscles, you can modify exercises as needed.
- Don’t forget to breathe in and out normally before each exercise. Your lungs should also be empty when you’re holding your breath.
- Start small. The number of repetitions and the time you hold your breath can increase as you practice more and more.
- Contract the pelvic muscles when sucking your belly in for maximum results.
Hypopressives can be used by almost anyone to meet a variety of health-related goals. Make sure you consult with your healthcare provider if you’re pregnant or have high blood pressure. Focusing on breathing style and posture are vital and become natural over time for lifelong benefits.
As natural as breathing is, controlled breathing exercises can provide many great benefits to our overall health and wellness. Read more here about how you can use your breath as a tool for growth and change.