Can We Cough Better?

24 November 2023


It’s this time of the year again. The runny noses and coughs - coming and going. And sometimes staying for a while.

Do you ever leak when you cough or sneeze? Many people do, especially women after childbirth or menopause. I remember a lady who would skip coming to yoga classes saying that she had a lingering cough. I didn’t really understand what she meant at the time, until I was freshly postnatal the second time around. As it turns out, in the first 3 months after the baby, 1 in 3 women in the UK battles with leaking.

But why does it happen and can we do anything about it?

Let’s see how coughing works.

Coughing is a natural reflex that helps us to clear our airways from anything that might irritate or block them - things like dust, smoke, mucus, or foreign objects. It works by creating a high-pressure airflow that pushes out the unwanted material from the lungs and throat.

We take a big breath in,

Then close our vocal cords to trap the air inside our lungs and increase the pressure.

And eventually, we use our abs and chest muscles to push all that trapped air upwards and out, creating a powerful blast of air that can reach speeds of up to 100 km/h! That is more than triple the driving speed limit in Hackney or Waltham Forest :D

❌ But sometimes the deep lower abs are weakened and could not match the strength of the upper abs and the chest muscles.

❌ So, instead of pushing the blast of pressured air upwards to expel the irritants from the airways, some of the air pushes out into the belly and down into the pelvic floor.

❌ This is not great if you have diastasis recti, hernia, prolapse or incontinence.

So, what do we do?

Antibiotics? Maybe. But also, we could learn to cough more effectively.

✅ Can you try to lift up from the base of the torso as you cough?

✅ This way we can move the pressured air upwards to help clear the airways without straining the midsection and the pelvic floor.

✅ And boom! Coughing has become a deep core exercise ❤️💪

You can see the two patterns in the animated gifs below:

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Try this, practise it and let me know if you need help!

Ivana xx