Correct Breathing
1. Abdominal Breathing
Probably everyone has heard about this one. You lay on your back and inhale air into your stomach. Your belly will rise on inhale and fall down on exhale. Breath evenly and slowly. If you are unfamiliar with such breathing, monitor yourself carefully, otherwise, you may not notice and switch to raising your belly on exhale and sucking it in on inhale - the typical chest breather way. This exercise is easy because nothing prevents your diaphragm from pushing down into your stomach.
2. Breathing laying on your belly.
Lay down on your stomach, put your head on your hands or a very flat pillow and inhale air into your stomach. It is not hard to do correctly because your chest is pressed down to the floor and it is hard to raise it. What will start rising and falling with your breath is your buttocks and hips. Now the diaphragm is pushing down into your stomach with each breath and your stomach wall cannot rise because it is pressed to the floor, internal pressure will lift your lower back and your buttocks. This kind of breathing is more work for your diaphragm muscle and therefore will strengthen it.
3. Breathing with the shoulders raised.
Lay on your stomach, put your hands along your body, your legs together. The muscles in your legs must all be toned, especially your buttocks. Then lift your head and shoulders from the floor by muscular effort of your back not by pushing with your hands. Now breathe into your belly. Much harder, isn't it? Your diaphragm muscle has to push into your internal organs so hard it will lift your whole upper body into the air. You will rise and fall with each breath. Rise on inhale, fall on exhale. Do it evenly and slowly to really see the effects. This is hard work for the diaphragm muscle. If you are unfamiliar with such exercises start with 5-10 breaths, do 3 series. A more advanced variant is raising your legs and shoulders at the same time, like in the prone boat posture (Yoga).
It is very important to tone muscles in your legs for this exercise, and buttocks in particular. That will stabilize your pelvis and will help you avoid unnecessary pressure in your lower back.

These exercises are preparation work for developing a habit of correct breathing and training your diaphragm (same as you would train any other muscle in your body). When you ride your abdominal muscles hold your internal organs under pressure. Your diaphragm has to push into them and flare your lower ribs to create room for the lungs to expand. If it is not strong enough you will start breathing into your upper chest. Such shallow breathing will create tension and anxiety. It also weakens connection between the lower and upper body.
The next step in your training consists of the exercises for abdominal strength. These exercises will further strengthen your diaphragm muscle.
Irina Yastrebova, Riding Instructor and Trainer.
My blog is about teaching, riding and training. I share what is important to me in my work with horses and riders. The writing helps me to think things over and have a better understanding of training ideas and priciples.
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