Most of us know the diaphragm is a big muscle involved in breathing, but fewer realize its central role in health, stability, and fitness.

It is connected to the psoas (the large muscles that run down the base of the spine and link it to the inner head of the hip) and quadratus lumborum (which also runs down the lower part of the spine, linking it to the pelvic bone), lines the bottom half of the rib cage, helps support the heart, and acts in the same layer as the transverse abdominals (the large muscles the run down the sides of the body).

It also plays a huge role in regulating the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems (shallow breathing excites the system, deep diaphragmatic breathing relaxes and calms the whole body).

Despite these central role roles, training the diaphragm is widely ignored outside of rare yoga techniques and progressive vocal training.

Try these two self massage stretches to help loosen the area up so it can work better.

Work the upper back connection

Lie down on a firm surface and tuck a pair of tennis balls along one side of the spine in the upper back and breath deeply while rocking slowly side to side to massage and loosen the area for 1-2 minutes, move balls to the other side and repeat, move balls southward under a new area and repeat on both sides.

Work the connections in the abdomen

To release tightness, and even alleviate lower-back pain, lie on your front and tuck a soft, inflatable sponge ball beneath your belly button. Breath deeply and relax into the ball while shifting slowly from side to side for 3-5 minutes.

Not only will you be getting to the core of your core workout, you might even be able to hit those high-notes, too.