The diaphragm: the muscle of the soul

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If there is a soul’s muscle, it should be the diaphragm. It is the piston of the first act of life (breathing); its lower pillars communicate with the fascia of the psoas “where the march meets the breath” (Thomas W. Myers), and it is also the bed of the heart.

The diaphragm is a large flat muscle that, along with other synergists, takes care of breathing. Located inside the thoracic cage, separates, like a vault, the thoracic and abdominal cavities, inserted in several points of the sternum, the ribs (these fibers are intertwined with the transverse abdominal) and the vertebrae (through two pillars), where he meets the psoas). It also has openings for the passage of blood vessels, nerves and esophagus. When you inhale, the diaphragm contracts and enlarges the space available in the chest cavity and the air enters the lungs through the trachea to fill the resulting vacuum. After inhalation, the diaphragm relaxes and the air is exhaled accompanying the emptying of the lungs.

Being a tonic and involuntary muscle tends to rigidity, something to be taken into account since there is a direct relationship between the state of tension-relaxation of the diaphragm with the feeling of tension-relaxation at the emotional level. And is that, as we are emotional, so we breathe and vice versa. Day to day or stressful situations have an impact on our breathing, causing the diaphragm to become excessively tense and, therefore, shortening its fibers. This will affect our postural attitude, and it will be reflected in our emotional system. Since, if its main function is to maintain ventilation, because of its vital nature, the second is the maintenance of the posture. Because of its position, it becomes one of the pieces to be taken into account in the variation of the different curvatures of the spine and on body static, mainly due to the change of pressures that occur in the thoracic and abdominal cavities and, also, for its influence on the position of the different vertebral segments. This function would not be completely effective without the main stabilizing element, the abdominal musculature, which during the descent of the diaphragm will be responsible for containing and limiting the displacement of the viscera of the abdominal cavity. Thus, the antagonist-synergistic action of the abdominal muscles is essential for diaphragmatic efficacy (Kapanji, 2007).

In these synergies between the diaphragm, the accessory muscles of breathing, the abdominal muscles, and the pelvic floor, is what hypopressive work is based on. This is done, basically, making a coastal opening, maintaining the intra-abdominal space with the minimum amount of air (exhalatory apnea). In this false expiration, the diaphragm opens like a parachute, generating a stretch that tracts the viscera, coerces the postural abdominal musculature (transverse and internal obliques fundamentally) and the pelvic floor. It also generates an aspiration, like a syringe, that decompresses spaces, helping to vascularize and release pressures. Hence its name: hypo (low) pressure (pressure).

In addition to this muscular work at the internal level, the postural guidelines in its realization will help to the greater implication of the adjacent muscular chains, generating a more global stretching effect and facilitating the awareness about the body in general and, more specifically, about the breathing. After a few sessions of training, when performing the hypopressive exercises we reach a state of concentration and stillness (product of apneas, sustained postural activation and the effect of traction with the vacuum of internal pressure) by which we obtain very positive results on the emotional system.

In short: to breathe better we need a functional diaphragm, relaxed enough. Both the diaphragmatic aspiration (abdominal vacuum) and the positions in which the hypopressives are performed (activation of the scapular waist) facilitate the stretching of the anterior myofascial chain and, at the same time, rebalance the musculature in the posterior area, especially at the dorsal and lumbar level.

Therefore, the training of the hypopressives is not only a different and efficient way to tone our abdominal girdle, providing improvements at an aesthetic level, we will also be improving our quality of life, relaxing a muscle that has vital and postural functions.

Through oppressive exercises, in a few weeks, you can see how the shape and distribution of tone between the abdomen and the rib cage changes and how you improve awareness of your breathing, based on what we can call true soul muscle.

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