Oct 2021: Opening a Tight Low Back, Intro to Stomach Vacuum

October 2021 ZOOM: "Stomach Vacuum"

In this zoom, I discuss what it truly takes to reprogram movement patterns, and 12 signs your pelvic floor and TVA are weak. I discuss why it's important to tackle TVA weakness BEFORE you tackle mobility restrictions elsewhere in the body. I also show you the visible difference between bracing/bearing down with your 6-pack and obliques vs. engaging your TVA. To engage your TVA, think "jelly fish"... i.e. a supple suckage in-age and up-age.

Practical Component:

WARM UP

  • Neck flex/ext, rotation, side to side, rolls.
  • Shoulder circles, back and forth, twists
  • Side bends
  • Forward fold: hang centre and then the sides. Hands down and wiggle hips side to side. Windmills.
  • Downward dog: pedal feet. Leg kicks: 10/side
  • Squat bottom position into lateral lunge into hip flexor stretch (bend & straighten back leg, then low lunge foot grab) into forward fold hamstring.
  • Butterfly Pumps
  • Banded lat activation drills
  • Wrist Stretches

 

ESTABLISHING CORE CONNECTION

  • Lie down and breathe to connect to the core.
  • BUGS (on foam roller)… to help activate the core. If you cannot connect to the TVA in the set point exercise… this is a good way to get started. 
  • Lying down: pseudo thrusts … it’s the thought that counts. 
  • Sitting in L-sit prep starting position: don’t shoot the hips back… it’s the thought that counts.

 

OPENING A "BITCHY" LOW BACK before you do L-sit preps & L-sits

  • The core connection exercises are step 1.
  • Expansion theory is your friend. It will help you if you think of the lumbar spine tractioning & elongating. And envision the tight QL’s melting, relaxing and opening up as you exhale and engage the TVA & PF.
  • Sit in a curled ball.
  • Ease into forward fold.
  • Baby reps for hip flexor raises.
  • Banded hip flexion & abduction
  • L-sit prep. Start small with the first L-sit prep…. Don’t expect end ranges in your first rep. 
  • Pilates roll up scaled with dumbbell
  • Plow
  • Comment about the set point exercise: the low belly should not poof out. Think suckage up/in

 

Stomach Vacuum

There is more to this than just sucking in your stomach. Sucking in your stomach isn’t enough to activate the TVA. All that does is displace air up into your diaphragm and down into your pelvic floor. That being said, I recommend you just practice sucking in your stomach like we did when we were kids, so that you see how easy it is to be supple and not rigid.

Best to do it on empty stomach when you wake up. Drink a bit of warm water first. Easier if you lean on your knees.

It also helps to first practice core breathing for a few cycles while sitting down. Make the cinching in of the TVA during the exhales progressively more dramatic (but keep the core really relaxed like it's seaweed floating in water). This will help you understand the feeling.

  • After taking in a deep breath of air through the nose (belly expands), bend over (put your hands on your thighs) and exhale so there is no air left in the lungs. Really expire all the air out … this feels scary at first to maximally exhale all the air out … we don’t normally do that.
  • Then, before you start to stand back up (keep your hands on your thighs), engage the pelvic floor (draw it upwards) and do the "throat lock". I like to swallow (and hold the swallow) to help me get the throat lock. This closes off the throat. I swallow when I engage my pelvic floor. You will know when you have the throat locked because the throat lock feels freaky. The throat lock didn't happen for me at first. It took practice to figure it out. You will actually see the skin over your throat suck down when you create the vacuum.
  • Then, as you start to stand back up (keep your hands on your thighs), do a "fake inhale" (I say fake because you are holding your breath, so just pretend you are inhaling), and this will help you gently (not rigidly... you have to completely relax the belly) cinch in the TVA  (suck in and up just like you do in the L-sit prep … enjoy the freaky vacuum feeling).  The diaphragm moves WAY UP towards your heart... try to picture it moving way up towards the heart or the North Pole😂 to get it out of the way. Yes, you will be holding your breath. If you aren't used to holding your breath, this may limit you at first.
  • I like to stay slightly bent over with my hands on my thighs. This helps me get my diaphragm way up and out of the way. Look at the photo:

 

The key is stay relaxed in the belly. You don’t want to armour or brace or be rigid with the rectus (6 pack) and obliques… or else this won’t work.

The ultimate goal is to have so much control that you can do Nauli Kriya… “like there is an alien in your tummy moving side to side”.  Watch my partner do Nauli Kriya.

First start by mastering the basic vacuum before progressing to Nauli Kriya.

This is challenging … don’t expect to be able to do this at first. My advice is to work on it every morning right after you brush your teeth on an empty stomach. "Practice" 😃

 

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