Starting Position: Lie supine (on your back) on an exercise mat or firm surface, bending your knees until your feet are positioned flat on the floor 12 – 18″ from your buttocks. Allow your arms to lie along your side and bend the elbows so your hands are pointing towards the ceiling. Breathe deeply for a 30 seconds relaxing your body and allowing gravity to gently pull your lower back and shoulders towards the floor. Depress and retract your scapulae (pull your shoulders down and back) without increasing the arch in your low back or lifting your hips off the mat / floot. Hold this position throughout the exercise.
To start the exercise, initiate a Hollowing Movement: Breathe normally and at the end of your breaths (end-tidal volume), perform the following actions individually at first, then combine them together:
- Perform a gentle “kegel” contraction without moving your hips or ribcage (the kegel contraction of the pelvic floor is the same contraction your would perform when resisting the urge to urinate).
- Draw your belly button towards your spine without moving your hips or rib cage (visualize narrowing your waist circumference without taking a deep breath). Any movement of the hips or rib cage indicates activation of your larger abdominal muscles (e.g. rectus abdominis).
- Combining both 1 and 2 above.
- Combining 1 and 2, but counting out loud while breathing normally (i.e. holding the contractions through normal breathing)
Once you have used a hollowing movement to stabilize your spine and pelvis, lift both legs and arms off of the floor; the knees should be directly over the hip joints and bent ninety degrees (pictured) and the elbows should be directly over the shoulder joints so your hands are pointed over your head (pictured).
Inhale and maintain the abdominal hollowing while slowly lowering the right heel and left hand towards the floor. The hand and heel should lightly touch the floor (but not rest), exhale continue the abdominal hollowing and slowly bring the leg and arm back to the initial starting position. Alternate to use the right arm and left leg; continue to complete a specific number of repetitions or a certain period of time.
Exercise Variation: To have more control (making it easier) when learning this exercise, start with the hands resting on the floor above the head and the feet resting gently on the floor in front of the buttocks; slowly lift the right arm and left leg off of the floor together while maintaining the abdominal hollowing, lower and alternate sides.