Starting Position: Lie 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). Your arms are out to your sides in a "T" position. Palms may face either up or down (illustrated). Breathe deeply for 30 seconds, relaxing your back and shoulders.
Pull your shoulders down toward your hips. Try not to arch your back or lift your hips. Hold this position throughout the exercise.
Hollowing Movement: Breathe normally. At the end of each exhalation, perform the following actions individually at first, then combine them together:
. Perform a gentle contraction of the pelvic floor muscles without moving your hips, ribcage or spine. (Imagine resisting the urge to urinate).
. Draw your belly button upward toward the ribcage and more deeply toward the spine. Do not allow your your hips, rib cage or spine to move. (Visualize narrowing at the waist like the number 8). Movement of the hips, rib cage or spine indicates that you are not using the correct muscles to perform this exercise.
. Combine both 1 and 2 above.
. Combine 1 and 2, but counting out loud while breathing normally (i.e. holding the contractions through normal breathing).
Exercise Progressions: Once your have spent time learning how to simultaneously contract the muscles of the pelvic floor and core, independent of breathing, progress the exercise complexity by adding small movements in the lower extremity:
. Lift one leg 3 - 6" (no more) off the mat and hold this position briefly (illustrated) without any movement in the hips and shoulders and without allowing your back to arch away from the floor.
. Heel slide, lifting the toes in one foot off the floor and slowly sliding the heel of one foot 3-6" away from your body without any movement in the hips and shoulders and without allowing your back to arch away from the floor.
This series of exercise movements activate your core muscles that are often neglected. Quality engagement of the core, independent of your larger, more superficial abdominal muscles, helps stiffen your torso, stabilize your spine and prevent injury. Try performing this exercise near a mirror in order to monitor any undesired movement in the hips, ribs, shoulder or low-back.