Starting Position: Lie on your back on an exercise mat or firm surface, with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Your arms are by your side and bent at the elbows so the backs of your arms are on the floor and your hands are off the floor, pointing towards the ceiling. Breathe deeply, relaxing your body into the floor. Pull your shoulder blades down and back. Do not allow the arch in your low back to increase or the ribcage or hips to lift off the mat. Hold this position throughout the exercise.
To start the exercise, initiate a Hollowing Movement: Breathe normally and at the end of your 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 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).
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 hips and bent ninety degrees (pictured) and the elbows should be directly over the shoulder joints so your hands are pointed to the wall behind you in "dead bug" pose (pictured).
Inhale. Keep the abdominals hollowing as you slowly lower the right heel and left hand toward the floor. The hand and heel should tap the floor lightly (but not rest). Exhale. With the abdominals still engaged, slowly bring the leg and arm back to "dead bug". Continue the movement, alternating sides for specific number of repetitions or a certain period of time.
Exercise Variation: When first learning this exercise, start with the hands resting on the floor toward the wall behind you and the feet flat on the floor. Slowly lift the right arm and left leg off of the floor together while maintaining the abdominal hollowing, lower and alternate sides.
Continue to breathe while holding the abdominal hollowing and bracing.