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What are hypopressive exercises?

woman doing hypopressives exercise

So what are hypopressives and how do they work?

Hypopressives exercises are a technique developed by Dr Marcel Caufriez in the 1980's . They are routinely used for postnatal rehabilitation and recovery in France, Spain, Brazil Canada and many other countries, and are now becoming popular in the UK.

Watching someone do hypopressives exercises looks like a combination of yoga / pilates-style movement, accompanied by a breathing technique. To understand how hypopressives work, it is important to understand the mechanics of our breathing cycle, and the role of our diaphragm and pelvic floor.

Imagine your abdomen as a cannister, with your diaphragm as the top, the pelvic floor as the bottom, and the core muscles as the sides. All elements of the cannister are connected, and react and respond to each other. As you inhale, your lungs expand and your diaphragm moves downwards; your pelvic floor moves downwards in response. As you exhale, your lungs empty and your diaphragm moves back up; your pelvic floor moves upwards with it. A healthy pelvic floor has tone AND flexibility and is able to move freely and responsively in the background as we move.

Pelvic floor dysfunction is a result of either weakness or hypertension in the pelvic floor, preventing it from being able to respond and react as we move and breath. Weakness or hypertension in the pelvic floor can cause incontinence, prolapse, pain and issues going to the toilet as the muscles are either too weak or too tight to contract and relax as we need them to. Hypopressive exercises aim to both build tone and strength in the pelvic floor, AND help it to relax when we need it to.

Hypopressive exercises work by reducing pressure in the "abdominal cannister". By learning hypopressives, you learn to breathe in a 360 degree way using your ribcage and activating the diaphragm. By activating the full use of the diaphragm when we breathe, we in turn activate the pelvic floor to both contract and relax effectively. The hypopressives "vacuum breath" that is taught helps to expand the ribcage and activate the diaphragm further, creating a LIFT in pelvic floor. This develops over time with regular practice and supports your pelvic floor to work AUTOMATICALLY in the background whilst we go about our daily lives. Hypopressives breathing also has some other amazing benefits; it calms our nervous system and provides an important release in our connective tissues (our fascia which runs throughout our body).

When learning hypopressives, we also think really carefully about posture; how we can use your bones to support our bodies better and not create additional tension. The varied poses and arm positions build strength and tone in the body by engaging the body's muscle chains, and working on the muscle systems that support the pelvic floor, like the glutes and core abdominal muscles.

So that's how hypopressives works in a nutshell! I'm always happy to chat and answer any questions you have so feel free to get in touch.

Abby x

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