The secret is learning how to contract your Transversus Abdominis (T.A). Most people have never hear of the T.A., but it is the deepest muscle of your abdominal wall, lying underneath your rectus abdominis and your obliques. The T.A. is the only abdominal wall muscle that starts close to your spine and encircles your midsection like a corset.
The T.A. contracts on a forceful exhale like when you cough or sneeze. Pilates uses this concept to help you contract your T.A. with a forceful exhale.
To contract your T.A., stand or sit in good posture. If sitting do not rest against the back of the chair. Inhale through your nose, taking the air into the lower portions of your lungs. You should expand at your ribcage but not at your belly. Exhale the air through tight lips like blowing through a straw ( this is what creates the force for the exhale). As you exhale think of cinching your abdominal wall together from side to side and front to back. Make sure to keep your "tall" posture. Do not slouch or deflate like a ballon as you exhale.
Try to do this focused breathing to contract your T.A. for 5-10 repetitions and 1-3 times per day.
Learning how to contract your T.A. is one of the foundations of a pilates practice. To find out more about this effective method of exercise, schedule a pilates private at you local pilates studio.