One of the top yoga instructors in my city said this after I told her about the Heal Your Core With Yoga program.
She trains hundreds of new yoga teachers each year. And she’s never heard of diastasis recti.
I’m not surprised. Diastasis Recti, a separation of the abdominal muscles caused by a stretching and thinning of the connective tissue during pregnancy, isn’t covered in most yoga teacher trainings. But it should be. While many yoga poses are extremely beneficial for a diastasis, certain poses and breath techniques prevent a separation from healing. And possibly make it worse.
I’ve spent the past four years researching how to diastasis-proof a yoga practice. In that time I’ve learned there’s very little information available about practicing yoga with a diastasis. Let’s change that right now!
3 Little Known Tips For Healing Your Core With Yoga:
1. Rib Breathe Instead Of Belly Breathe.
When you breathe deep into your belly, you increase the pressure inside your abdomen. In individuals with a diastasis, increased pressure strains your already-compromised core.
The long-term result of continued deep belly breaths? Your diastasis can’t heal.
Luckily, there’s a safer alternative. Rib breathing.
In rib breathing, you expand the ribcage left to right. This increases the pressure in the thoracic (chest) cavity rather than the abdomen. The result? A deep breath without straining the core.
Bonus: Rib breathing also helps coordinate the actions of the diaphragm and pelvic floor. If you struggle with incontinence or organ prolapse, rib breathing is the way to go.
2. Proper Alignment Is EVERYTHING.
Yes, the immediate cause of your diastasis was most likely a pregnancy. But your ongoing alignment patterns are the reason it hasn’t healed.
Misalignment in the body increases pressure in the abdomen, and strains your weakened core.
If you are like most humans, you spend the vast majority of your days sitting at your desk, driving your car, and watching Netflix. This results in a body alignment that looks like this…
Tight hips and weak gluteal muscles tuck your tailbone under and push your hips forward of your heels. This lower body alignment pushes your whole body forward. To stay upright, you have to thrust your ribs up and out and throw your shoulders back.
This reduces the space in the abdomen and increases pressure in your core.
More pressure means more strain on your already weakened core.
3 quick alignment fixes correct your alignment, limit the strain on your core, and encourage the core to heal:
- Move your hips over your heels
- Untuck your pelvis, and
- Drop your ribs to keep them from thrusting forward.
With these adjustments, your body returns to neutral alignment. Your shoulders, hip bones, and ankles line up. And, most importantly, your abdomen has lots and lots of space.
Lots of space = Low pressure = No strain on your diastasis.
(P.S. This is what our alignment would look like if we spent our time walking, squatting, and foraging).
This alignment takes practice and yoga is one of THE BEST ways to practice. Begin by creating these alignment patterns on your yoga mat. Then incorporate the principles into activities like brushing your teeth, and picking up toys. The more time you spend in good alignment, the more opportunity your body has to heal.
3. Stay Away From Certain Yoga Poses (For A Little While At Least)
A diastasis is characterized by a weak linea alba (the connective tissue between the two sides of the abdominals). Poses that create extreme stretching of the abdomen, and poses that create large amounts of pressure in the abdomen, prevent this connective tissue from healing.
3 POSE TYPES TO AVOID WHILE HEALING:
Big Backbends (Main Issue: Excess Stretching)
Poses like bow, upward facing dog, and wheel. These poses ask the front of the body to stretch in a big way. This pulls on the linea alba, keeps it weak and thin and prevents it from healing.
Traditional Core Strengtheners: (Main Issue: Excess Pressure)
Poses like plank, boat, and crunches. These force the core muscles to engage in a way that increases the pressure in the abdomen. This increased pressure pushes on the weak connective tissue and keeps it from healing. In some cases it can cause even more damage.
Leveraged Twists: (Main Issues: Excess Stretching, Excess Pressure)
Poses that use your arms to twist deeper like utkatasana twist and crescent lunge twist. These give the core a double whammy. The asymmetry of the pose stretches the connective tissue. The twisting of the abdomen increases pressure. You strain the core while stretching it. That’s a surefire way to keep that diastasis around for the long haul.
If you’re feeling like I’ve just eliminated your entire yoga practice, I promise, I haven’t!! There are tons of yoga poses available to you that provide similar benefits while promoting healing of your core. And once you strengthen your deep core muscles, you can do these poses again. I promise!
With the right poses and good alignment, yoga is a powerful tool to heal abdominal separation.
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