Training your diaphragm muscle
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Tuesday, June 2, 2009 08:55 AM
I have already talked about importance of training diaphragm muscle on my website. Please visit
the Abdomen Page
to review this information.
However, since then I haven't been talking about diaphragm at all. And from my own experience and my students
I cannot stress enough how important it is to have a strong diaphragm muscle. It is absolutely vital component of your strong core.
Without training the diaphragm muscle you will not have a very efficient, playable, and strong core.
The diaphragm muscle
is a flat sheet in a domelike shape that is located right under our lungs. It is attached to the bottom of our ribs all the way around
our body from the spine to the breast bone. You can feel your diaphragm muscle if you curl your fingers under
your lower ribs and try to breathe using your diaphragm. The muscle starts pushing your fingers out. Diaphragm plays a major role
in our breathing. In reality it is the main breathing mechanism.
The diaphragm activates on inhale and pushes down/sideways creating a vacuum inside thoracic cavity
(around your lungs). Lungs expand and draw air in. If you are laying down on your back and your stomach muscles are relaxed
the diaphragm will push mostly down and raise your belly (hence, belly breathing). If you are active - walking, running, riding your horse -
the diaphragm will not be able to push down because abdominal muscles are working. In this case it will push sideways
and flare your lower ribs in a similar manner the fish's gills are flared. This sideway push of the diaphragm is directed all around your ribcage.
And with a little bit of training you can modify and emphasize a particular direction. This is incredibly useful tool during riding
because you can improve solidity and connection in your weak areas. For example, your instructor telling you that you have collapsed
to the left. Instead of trying to stretch up or lean to the right focus on directing your inhale into the left side of your ribcage. You will
straighten and improve your left side without compromising other areas.
On exhale the diaphragm relaxes and springs back into domelike shape and pushes air out.
Abdominal muscles aid the diaphragm in this process to push air out more effectively. This should be done under control.
You need to let go gradually in a similar way you put down an object on a table. You do not drop it relaxing your arm. You put it
down carefully by slowly letting your biceps muscles to lengthen. It is called Eccentric Contraction. You use the same mechanism to release your diaphragm.
During riding breathing with the diaphragm is very important to get enough air in and to enhance your core stability.
However, it is not easy to breathe with the diaphragm during riding. Your diaphragm must be strong enough and you
should develop a good habit of breathing with your diaphragm in any circumstances.
Plus you need to develop enough awareness to catch yourself when you go into upper chest and shoulders paradoxic breathing
where diaphragm stays relaxed and stretched on inhale. Besides the fact that this type of breathing activates your "flight and fight" instincts
(not something you want during riding) it greatly undermines your core stability and control.
To help develop your diaphragm muscle and create a habit of diaphragmatic breathing:
- Pay attention to the way you breathe. Learn to refocus on your breathing as often as possible. Just a quick
check, activate your diaphragm if you lost it and go by your business
- If you involved in any kind of fitness program either at your local club or at home pay very close attention to how you breathe
during exercises. It should be diaphragmatic, regular and coordinated, exhaling on exertion and inhaling during rebounce, or exhaling
when you are bending and inhaling when you are straightening.
- Click on the Correct Breathing page to check
out specific exercises for the diaphragm muscle.
- If you visit massage or physiotherapist ask them on how to enhance your diaphragmatic breathing
- Take a few Yoga classes or find a book at your local library on Yoga/breathing
Do not expect a quick success. It takes time and dedication to develop and train your diaphragm muscle. However,
you will reap wonderful benefits from it. Strong diaphragm and good core stability will help you to become more balanced and
connected to your horse, stay with his movement, controll and modify his movement, sit through his spooks, sit his trot and canter better, etc.
Your topics are very informative.
Keep up the good work !