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What are hypopressives?

Hypopressives are a breathwork and movement technique, brilliant for pelvic health and postnatal core and pelvic floor recovery. The hypopressives vacuum breath (seen in so many of the pictures of hypopressive exercises) taps into the natural synergy we have between our pelvic floor and diaphragm, creating a pelvic floor lift and natural contraction to improve the background tone and function of our pelvic floor and core.

Can hypopressives help improve prolapse and incontinence symptoms?

Yes - and this is what hypopressive exercises are best known for! Our pelvic floor is designed to work without us thinking about it, with a whopping 70% of pelvic floor function relying on this background nervous system innervation. We have a natural synergy between our pelvic floor and diaphragm, so when we inhale, the pelvic floor relaxes, as the diaphragm moves down and as we exhale and pelvic floor lifts as the diaphragm rises. In hypopressive exercises, we're harnessing this natural synergy to generate a natural automatic contraction of your pelvic floor - you won't be squeezing your pelvic floor consciously yourself. This helps our pelvic floor function better in the background during day-to-day life without us thinking about it - cool huh? But this contraction also helps to normalise tone, so if you have a high tone or hypertonic pelvic floor, hypopressives can be hugely beneficial.

Hypopressives also helps to develop functional core strength, working on the deepest layer of the core, the transverse abdominus muscle (TVA), and that's where the deep core strength and waist slimming benefits come from. During coughing or sneezing when it's common to get symptoms, hypopressives trains the pelvic floor and core so that they can manage these changes in intra-abdominal pressure better to help you stay symptom free.

What's the hypopressives vacuum?

One of the most misunderstood things about hypopressive exercises is that it looks like you're actively pulling in your tummy during the vacuum breath. What's actually happening here is that pressure changes created internally by the hypopressives breathing cycles initiates a lifting of the diaphragm and pelvic floor, and a hollowing effect of the tummy is seen as the TVA also contracts. There's no active pulling in of the tummy or conscious contraction of the pelvic floor like with traditional pelvic floor exercises, and although it looks a bit weird, it's incredibly effective. The tummy stays relaxed during the breath hold and rib stretch which I'll explain below.

How do you do a hypopressives vacuum breath?

The hypopressives breathwork focuses on breathing through the rib cage rather than into the tummy starting with a moderately strong breath in, aiming the air into the bottom of the rib cage, and the sides and back of the rib cage, without raising the shoulders. The exhale will feel like an extension of your normal breath, but there is no forcing, it's like misting a window. There are 3 inhales and exhales for each cycle of breathing, in for 3, out for 6 three times, finishing with an exhale, a pause, where you soften through the tummy before stretching the ribs sideways, almost like you're taking in a breath but without actually breathing in. This is what creates the low pressure in the tummy area and the hollowing, and this is where the magic happens with hypopressives, it gets the pelvic floor moving in a really dynamic way with the breath, balancing and normalising pelvic floor tone and function.

Why do you do the different poses in hypopressives?

We add this breathwork into a full body movement technique, starting with easier floor and foundational poses and then moving onto harder poses, all of which bring additional benefits in terms of pelvic floor function, whole body tone and strength and postural improvements. The hypopressives training method is about re-training the core, which includes the pelvic floor, to manage pressure better and improve tone. We're trying to get as much movement, balance and tone through the core and pelvic floor to optimise symptom improvements in both the short and the long term - that's what our Create Lift ® Hypopressives Programme is all about.

There are loads of benefits of a regular hypopressives practise and it's a beautiful mindful technique which calms the nervous system quickly and can bring feelings of calm and wellbeing after just a short time.

I hope this is helpful! There is also a video on my YouTube channel which you can watch which goes into more detail and where you can see me doing the hypopressives breathwork too.

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