Do any of these cues sound familiar?
'Breathe all the air out'
'Empty your lungs completely'
'Make sure there's no air left'
I've worked with hundreds of women over the last 3 years, and this is something that crops up all the time - so I thought I would have a brief chat about it here.
When people come to me saying they've been doing Hypopressives, and either their symptoms are staying the same, getting worse, or not really improving - this is one of the things I'm looking for.
These sort of cues (rightly) raise eyebrows within the pelvic health community.
Can you do a forced exhale without bearing down and putting unnecessary pressure through your pelvic floor, in a technique which is supposed to be low pressure? I don't believe you can, and I've had women come to me who have actually made their symptoms worse by doing this, thinking they're doing the technique correctly.
Another thing to note is that if you're doing this, you are also going to be overly tensing your stomach muscles on the exhale - which will make relaxing your tummy enough to do a gentle, full rib stretch difficult. The rib stretch is really important - but that's for another post.
If you think you're doing a forced long exhale during your Hypopressive practise please read on:
Physiologically, you can't empty your lungs completely - there will always be a residual volume of air left in your lungs even after a maximum forceful exhalation. This keeps the alveoli open at all times and is a protective mechanism.
When you are doing a cycle of breathing in Hypopressives, you only want to exhale until your exhale comes to a natural end (cue - exhale until the breath fades away) - at that point you hold your breath, pause - and stretch your ribs.
How do I know if I'm over exhaling?
You can test this yourself but taking in a nice steady inhale through your nose for 3, and then exhaling steadily through your mouth (for about 5 or 6), with your jaw relaxed - keeping the strength of your exhale the same. At the point when your exhale starts to fade away - don't be tempted to increase the strength of your exhale - simple hold your breath at this point, pause, and if you've been taught to do this by a trained instructor (and your don't have any contraindications) - stretch your ribs.
A qualified instructor will also be able to look at your stomach during the exhale to see if you're over exhaling - so it's worth getting checked if you think you might be.
Hope this is helpful - there is so much more to the breath work, and other things that might need adjusting if you're having problems - so please get help from a qualified instructor to make sure you're getting the most out of your practise.