Hypopressive exercises have become a relatively new technique that aim to stimulate abdominal and pelvic muscles, which help greatly in toning your abs and strengthening your core. The term ‘hypopressive’ means to reduce or decrease pressure. Originally created to help postpartum women with pelvic floor dysfunctions, hypopressive exercises have expanded beyond the clinical setting and have become a low impact workout that has also found beneficial applications in sports performance and is relatively safe for the general public to practice. Hypopressive exercises tend to focus on diaphragmatic breathing, which have also found application in several yoga methods.
What are hypopressive exercises?
Also called Hypopressive Abdominal Gymnastics, hypopressive exercises are designed to work out those pelvic floor muscles that would otherwise not be exercised at all by any other means. With the hypopressive technique, these muscles activate other abdominal muscles, such as the transverse and abdominal oblique, which are also worked out.
These exercises were developed by Dr. Marcel Caufriez as a breathing system for therapists to apply in a clinical setting to help postpartum women with preventing or recovering from pelvic floor dysfunctions. He discovered that classical abdominal exercises were causing problems in the delicate pelvic floor and dynamics of women, causing sexual disturbances and some forms of urinary incontinence.
While working alongside Dr. Caufriez, Piti Pinasch and Tamara Rial recognized the need of expanding the reach and uses of hypopressive exercises outside a clinical setting. They developed a Low Pressure fitness program that is now used by both men and women, not only to work out on their pelvic health but also to strengthen the core, which is the key to physical well-being. Hypopressive exercises are also used by highly trained sport individuals for its benefits in core strengthening, which helps increase overall performance.
The importance of breathing
Unlike most core and abdominal strength exercises, breathing is of utmost importance in order to reap the most benefits of hypopressive exercises. It focuses on using diaphragmatic breathing, which reduces physical tension in the abdominal area, and helps in preventing hernias. Correct breathing can activate slow twitch muscle fibers within the pelvic floor, which aids us in preventing fatigue and increasing endurance. Air should be inhaled by the nose and exhaled through the mouth. The breaths must be deep and the air must be held for 7-10 seconds. The abdominal muscles must be contracted while breathing in after you fully exhale. Exhalation must be completed in such a way that all the inhaled air must be emptied out. At first it may seem to be a complicated form of breathing, mainly because we are used to breathing the opposite way, but with a little patience and perseverance, we can master this type of breathing that will hold great benefits.
How to start
Hypopressive exercises must always begin with relaxation. The next step is to find the correct posture, followed by breathing with the diaphragm. It takes some time and practice, but eventually you will be able to breathe in and contract your internal organs during specific positions, such as the plank exercise and ‘the Taylor’. Focus on the breathing and eventually you will be able to perform these exercises and reap the benefits.
Hypopressive exercises benefits are numerous, which certainly justify doing and making them part of your daily life. In women, they strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, aiding in childbearing and birth; they decrease chances of suffering from lumbar disc hernias, prevents pelvic organ prolapse and can actually treat the already prolapsed organs. Your gait improves its movement towards a healthier one, helps reduce waistline, retrains posture and helps prevent and treat urinary incontinence, especially after many births. It also boosts your sexual performance and improves sexual function. It is very helpful for post-surgical patients not involving individual critical areas.
As a general guideline, hypopressive exercises should not be performed before going to bed or after eating because it can interfere with sleep and digestion. Even though hypopressive exercises can be practiced by the general public and all ages, it is always recommendable to consult with a qualified physician to determine if hypopressive exercises are right for you. It is not recommended for people with high blood pressure, Crohn’s disease, back or muscle injuries (particularly knee and shoulder problems), nor by pregnant women, unless they are approved and supervised by a doctor with the appropriate modifications.
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