Forum: Ballet / Ballet - Beginners

How do I engage my abs without holding my breath -- and muscle imbalances question
By BalletMulan
On Tue Jul 21, 2015 04:26 PM

I was wondering HOW exactly you should use your abs to stabalize your body -- without contracting your diaphragm (holding your breath).

And also, could you please explain the mechanics of how your core is supposed to stabilize your shoulders, arms, hands, spine, pelvis, hips, legs , feet, etc.

Shouldn't ALL muscles hold equal tension and laxity (not just the core - abs as the 'captain' of the body ) -- in other words, shouldn`t EACH muscle have EQUAL importance to stabilize the other (on top of it and below it) in the kinetic chain of the body, not relying on that big central block called the 'core' to stabilize everything ?

Wouldn't focusing just on the core to stabilize your ENTIRE body be counter-productive for overall muscular balance?

Thanks for your advice

2 Replies to How do I engage my abs without holding my breath -- and muscle imbalances question

re: How do I engage my abs without holding my breath -- and muscle imbalances question
By balletboyrhysmember has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Wed Jul 22, 2015 10:26 AM
maybe i can help!

when im talking about the "core" what im really talking about is a group of muscles, that apart from their other functions, work to stabilize your pelvis, spine and shoulders. so primarily your inner/outer thighs and glutes, pelvic floor muscles, internal/external obliques, transversus abdominus, rectus abdominus, spinal extensors, lats, serratus and lower mid traps (just to name a few). these muscles should all work together, with equal exertion, in order to stabilize your trunk and where your limbs attach. this kind of balanced engagement is going to give you the strongest base from which to dance.

in terms of breath, when your transversus abdominus (tummy in muscle) is engaged you should try to practice breathing laterally into your ribs so that the sides of your chest and upper lungs/back fill with air instead of your stomach.

just a quick reply on my way to the beach, but hope this was hekpful.
re: How do I engage my abs without holding my breath -- and muscle imbalances question
By Storm_Trouper
On Thu Jul 23, 2015 01:19 AM
Edited by Storm_Trouper (249942) on 2015-07-23 01:31:07
Edited by Storm_Trouper (249942) on 2015-07-23 01:43:28
Edited by Storm_Trouper (249942) on 2015-07-23 01:44:24
Edited by Storm_Trouper (249942) on 2015-07-23 01:45:24
One of the neat things I learned from ballet is that there are different ways to breathe (to inhale air then relax to exhale). The muscles of the trunk are used differently to inhale in a different manner. The different ways look different on your chest and back (especially) when you watch yourself in the mirror. You also notice or sense that different ways feel differently on your torso since muscles are engaged in ways that are not similar. Your ribs change in different ways too.

So you initially practice new ways to breath quite mindfully and intentfully with self awareness (you feel self conscious about how your chest, abs, ribs etc. are all working) engaging certain muscles more noticeably and deliberately than others. Eventually the new pattern of breathing becomes more and more automatic and you don't have to think about what you're trying to do. So it comes only with practice and repetition.

A common way to breath is sometimes called diaphragm or belly breathing, where your lower abdomen pushes out to inhale. (This method probably has other names too.) Players of wind musical instruments are taught this. (Lay down, put a thick phonebook over your belly button, and raise and lower this book weight as much as you can with each breath.)

Breathing 'out your back' and/or 'outwards to both sides' while keeping your abs engaged (so can't move a phone book) I have been taught can be called Pilates breathing since it is taught in Pilates classes (where the abs are engaged.)

There are more knowledgable people here than me who can correct whatever I have explained incorrectly or poorly.

When learning to breath, I found it was challenging also because as you do it, for example standing along side the barre in 1st or 2nd or 5th, you also have to simultaneously maintain your leg/hip turn out (connected to your pelvic core) at the same time as you pull up your torso, keeping your chest open, shoulders down, not stick out your lower rib margin, long neck, chin up, weight slightly forward on your toes and arms in whatever supported proper position. It's multiple aspects to educate your body how to carry itself. But with time and corrections from an alert teacher it all becomes a bit easier (provided you're not overly fatigued.)

A Way To Learn & Practice Breathing Sidewards
- have a person stand behind you with their hands held out in front of them your body width apart, elbows bent
- have them place their palms flat against the SIDES of your ribs under your arm pits, around nipple height, and press slightly palm-to-palm to provide slight resistance or pressure to the rib cage as it tries to expand sidewards on inspiration
- as you inhale, try to force the other person's pair of hands SLIGHTLY wider apart using your rib cage (keep you own arms outstretched in first or second position)
- as you relax to exhale, the other person's palms press lightly (not squeeze) together
- repeat, breathing normally or slightly more slowly, or rapidly; think "force the palms apart using my side ribs"

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