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How to Do the Core Breath

By Dr. Sarah Mickeler (she/her), Founder/CEO, Chiropractor
Hey guys, I’m Dr. Sarah Mickler, I’m the founder of West End Mamas and also a chiropractor.
Today I wanted to talk to you about something called the core breath. So you might’ve heard the core breath being called box breathing or square breathing, any number of things, either way, it all means the same thing. What the purpose of the core breath is to connect your breathing to your deep core.
The core breath is really useful for a couple of things. So the first thing is really just connecting to our core when we’re pregnant and postpartum or any time. The second thing is it’ll help us connect to our pelvic floor. The third is it’ll help our ribs function a little bit better, which is typical in pregnancy. As we get more pregnant and the contents of our uterus, and our belly, and our stomachs, and our organs all get squished up. Our ribs tend to splay out a little bit, and then they don’t, our rib function isn’t quite as good as it used to be. Then the fourth part is it can really help with swelling in the lower limbs because a lot of our major blood vessels go right through our diaphragm. If our diaphragm isn’t functioning properly, then those blood vessels don’t get the same massage action that they’re used to getting. And that can actually really contribute to swelling in the lower limbs.
To start off, normally you’d be doing this on an exercise ball. I don’t have an exercise ball right here so I’m doing this on a chair. The purpose of doing it on an exercise ball would be so that really your perineum can contact that ball. So your perineum is the area between your vagina and your anus and you just want it to make contact on that ball. So that’s really your pelvic floor area. If you need to do this on a chair, that’s totally fine. You might find that you want to kind of grab your glutes and get them out of the way so that you’re really feeling your sits bones or those bony bits in your bum underneath you. You could do this on a rollback towel if you wanted, you could also do it on a bolster if you have one, a chair is also totally fine.

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Just make sure you’re nice and comfortable, neutral spine. You don’t want to be too arched back, you don’t want to be tilting forward, just really comfy, okay?
There are a couple of steps to doing the core breath and we’ll start at the beginning. The first part is just putting your hands on your ribs. If you’re smaller than me, you might find that your fingers touch, that’s okay. You can put your hands like this, but I like to just start like this. Just right underneath my chest area, the goal with the core breath is not to engage too much of your upper chest. Some of us will find that we do tend to breathe a lot up here. It’s a hard way to breathe because we’re not meant to breathe really with these muscles up here. These are all auxiliary breathing muscles, so they do contribute to breathing but most of our breathing is supposed to happen from our diaphragm and our bellies.
Hands here, just take a big breath in. And what you’ll see is that my hands are going to kind of come away a little bit
and then come back. So check that out. So the purpose there is really to activate my diaphragm, to make my ribs, do this kind of motion and see my hands moving a little bit, okay?
To take it a step further, you could put your hand on your rib, and then another hand on your low belly, okay?
And at this point, you’d want your ribs coming out and also your low belly coming out. So check this out. Good, all right. So again, ribs, low belly. We really want to make the contents of this abdominal cavity expand. Now to connect to our pelvic floor with this, what we want to do is want to feel our pelvic floor kind of softening as we take a breath in. You might feel like it’s coming down a little bit, you might not, certainly don’t push down as you’re doing this,
but then if you’re really connecting to your pelvic floor, you should also feel it kind of lifting up just a little bit
when you’re breathing out. I don’t do this with my hands on my ribs. When I breathe in, I’m going to feel my pelvic floor soften below me, and when I breathe out, I’m going to feel it come up. So let’s give that a go.
If you need a cue for that pelvic floor, it could be, do a tiny little kegel. I don’t want you to go nuts with it. A little kegel you could consider maybe the feeling that you get when you’re trying to slow down the stream of urine when you’re trying to go pee. Those are two relatively good cues to try to connect you to your pelvic floor. Other cues you might hear are pretending that you’re picking up a little blueberry with your pelvic floor. Seriously, don’t go too far with it,
but just try to connect to your pelvic floor while you’re doing this.
So this is super useful to do when you’re pregnant because as you’re trying to push your baby out of your body you do need some abdominal strength to do that. And generally speaking, as we get more and more pregnant, our abs do have a tendency, not for all of us, but for many of us, our abs do tend to get a little bit weaker. So we want to really connect to our core as much as we can.
The other thing is with our diaphragm, by having our diaphragm, which is that big muscle that goes from the front to the back of us, by activating our diaphragm, it’s gonna play a big role in terms of having a vaginal birth because it’s going to be part of pushing, okay?
And if your diaphragm is not functioning properly, you know, you might be at a slight disadvantage there, hard to say, but we do want to make sure that your diaphragm is functioning. And the other thing too is that if you’re suffering from rib pain during pregnancy because if our ribs aren’t activating this motion which they should be doing all the time when you’re breathing. As we get more pregnant, our ribs tend to be a little sticky,  and you’ll find that rib cage just moves up and down instead of your ribs doing this, you could end up with some ripping. It could be on your sides. It could be around your back, but by really encouraging your ribs to do that proper motion it could really help with that.

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So this is honestly something that we recommend for almost all of our patients.  You can start this at any time in your pregnancy, super early on or later. The earlier you do it, the more of a habit it will become. So I think earlier is better, but it’s up to you. It’s also one of the first things you can do postpartum. So when you’re home, you’ve had your baby. You’re really having a hard time connecting to that core and your pelvic floor, but you really don’t feel like you’re up for anything quite yet, this is a good place to start.
Hang out, spend a couple of minutes doing this every day I recommend doing at least 10 core breaths in a row. Really spend some quality time connecting to your diaphragm, to your core, to your pelvic floor every day, no matter what part of pregnancy you’re in. Honestly, it’s not going to hurt you. So give it a go. If you have any questions, we’re here for you. So I will drop our contact information below here. So take a look if you need to get in touch, do, we’re here for any questions and we’re wishing you a wonderful pregnancy and great postpartum.
All right, we’ll talk soon.

The core breath is so useful for pregnant and postpartum people! The key components are to engage your core and pelvic floor while you are breathing in order to connect the breathing to your core.

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