Belly Binders For Core Healing: Who Needs One & Who Doesn’t?

Belly Binders For Core Healing: Who Needs One & Who Doesn’t?

Today I want to talk about belly binding and abdominal splints.

An abdominal splint is a piece of elastic that you wrap around your belly to support your core. This is a contentious topic in the world of core healing. There are some practitioners who say absolutely everyone should wear one. And there are some who say no one should ever wear one.

It’s my belief that things are almost never that black and white.

What I have found is that there are certain people for whom belly binding is extremely helpful and there are some people for whom belly binding is unnecessary.

That’s what we’ll cover today.

We’ll discuss two different contexts for belly binding:

  • Binding in the first few weeks postpartum
  • Binding while healing an abdominal separation (diastasis recti)

Binding While Healing An Abdominal Separation

Diastasis Recti is a separation of the abdominal muscles that happens during pregnancy. For some women it heals naturally postpartum, but up to 30% of women still have it one year after having a baby.

It leads to core weakness that can cause back pain, hip pain, incontinence, and other issues.  So it’s very important to bring the core muscles back together so the body can function properly.

Most women can bring their core muscles back together without the help of an abdominal splint.

For most women, simply doing the right exercises, breathing properly, and correcting alignment is all it takes to bring those muscles back together and allow the connective tissue that connects the muscles to heal.

**For more information on proper exercise and alignment for diastasis, check out the Heal Your Core With Yoga program. 

So most women do not require an abdominal binder.

But what about the women for whom proper exercise and alignment isn’t quite enough?

There are three types of women for whom I typically recommend an abdominal splint.

Women with a 4+ Finger Gap

The first is women who have a abdominal gap bigger than four fingers.

Not sure the size of your gap? Here’s a self-test video.

With a larger gap, it can be harder to connect to your deep core muscles. Additionally, the connective tissue is often thinner and weaker in a larger gap.

So, for these women, splinting brings the two sides of the abdominal muscles together and

  • helps you connect more to your muscles, and
  • gives the connective tissue a better chance to heal.

Women Carrying Extra Weight At Their Midsection

The second type of person I typically recommend a splint to is someone carrying extra weight on their belly.

The abdominal muscles are impacted by gravity. When you have extra weight at the front, it can pull on the abdominals and make it harder to engage the deep core muscles.

So for these women, splinting can help them connect more to their muscles and minimize ongoing strain to the already weak area of the core.

Women Struggling To Engage Their Deep Core Muscles

The third type of woman who can benefit from splinting is someone who is struggling to find the connection to their abdominal muscles (even if she doesn’t fall into the two categories above).

If you’ve been taught how to engage your deep core muscles, but feel like you just can’t make it happen, a splint might help!

By bringing those muscles together it can enhance the brain-body connection and give some biofeedback to the system. This can make muscle engagement more successful.

As a reminder, for all of these groups, the splint should only be used short term while you are doing all the other good work to heal your core.  (More on what a short-term splinting schedule looks like coming soon in another post).

Splinting In The First 2-3 Weeks Postpartum

I also want to speak to abdominal splinting immediately postpartum because I believe most women can benefit from this type of splinting.

In the first few weeks after having a baby, your core is at its weakest. And you have the added demand of extremely awkward movements and tasks. You’re getting up every two hours, moving awkwardly to put a baby in a bassinet, and you’re sleep-deprived.

Most likely you are doing lots of movements that can strain your already weak core.

Wearing a binder in the first few weeks postpartum can give moms added support and prevent them from creating damage in an already weak core.

Stay tuned for upcoming posts on how to use a splint short-term and my recommendations for which splints are best. 

Sitting Techniques For Optimal Core & Hip Health

Sitting Techniques For Optimal Core & Hip Health

I get a lot of questions about how to sit properly without putting pressure on your core or diastasis, or making your hips feel worse.

So today I want to share how to sit for optimum core & hip health. 

Optimal sitting comes down to maintaining proper alignment in your pelvis. When you come out of neutral alignment, either by tucking or untucking your pelvis too much, you put extra pressure on your core and hips. This can exacerbate core weakness and hip pain. 

So, how do you maintain proper pelvis position while sitting? 

We’ll cover three things today: 

  • Sitting in a chair
  • Sitting on the floor while playing with your kids
  • Relaxing on the couch 

 

SITTING IN A CHAIR

When sitting in a chair, you want to: 

  • Sit directly on your sit bones,
  • Use back support, and, 
  • Place feet flat on the floor, hip width apart.

Find your sit bones. 

When bending over slightly from standing, the sit bones ( Ischial tuberosities) are the bones that you feel protruding slightly from your bottom. You want to make sure that when you sit in a chair, the sit bones are directly on the chair. That will help you know you have a neutral pelvis position. 

If you untuck your pelvis, the sit bones will be lifting up off the chair in the back. If you tuck our pelvis, the sit bones will still be on the chair, but we’ll also be sitting more on our tailbone. 

You want to avoid those two extremes and find a neutral pelvis by sitting directly on the sit bones. I find this is easiest to find at the front of the chair. 

Once you’ve found it, slide your body back on the chair so that your back is fully supported. 

Back Support

Back support is important because it allows you to maintain proper alignment for longer periods of time. 

Not all chairs have great back support though (e.g. couches, seats in the car). For those situations, grab a small hand towel or small pillow. Roll it up and slide it behind your low back. It will help keep you in a relatively neutral spine and pelvis position. 

Feet on Floor

If possible, try to place your feet flat on the floor, hip width apart. 

If you are short, this can be challenging! Placing some yoga blocks under your feet can help you maintain alignment by bringing the floor closer to you.

 

SITTING ON THE FLOOR TO PLAY

Many of us moms spend a lot of time sitting on the floor playing with our kids. Many of us default to a criss-cross applesauce position but, unless you have extremely open hips, it is hard to sit in this position without significantly tucking our pelvis under. As I’ve mentioned, this throws our body out of alignment and puts pressure on our weak core. 

So, what other positions can we find? 

I find the best tool for sitting on the floor is a yoga block. A yoga block opens up your position options.

(Watch the video for examples of these positions)

You can sit on the block with your feet on the floor (like the block is a low chair).

Or, bend your knees so that the lower legs are near the block and your feet are pointing backward.

Or sit cross-legged on the block.

You can slide yourself up against a wall for more back support in any of these positions. 

When it comes to sitting on the floor, change position often! 

You don’t want to sit in the same way all the time. The body is made to do lots of different types of movement. 

 

RELAXING

Often when I talk about this topic I get the question… “Can I never chill out on the couch and watch a movie?” 

You can! Relaxation is very important for the body. So when you want to chill out, do it!

But let’s set you up so that you relax in a way that is best for your body. 

Don’t Get Sucked Into The Couch!

Couches often suck our lower body in resulting in a tucked pelvis and squashed abdominal area. So, just like in a chair, get a towel or small pillow and put it behind your low back. This will help keep your pelvis neutral and prevent you from collapsing into the couch. 

Support Your Head

One thing that can help with relaxation is to place a pillow behind your head. This can allow more of the upper body muscles to relax. 

Lie down

Another option, lie down! Laying (on the couch or floor) is a great way to allow all the muscles to relax without putting any extra pressure on the core muscles or hips. 

There you have it! 

Ways to sit and relax that will keep your body happy. 

Please know: It’s never going to be perfect! Don’t freak out if you end up somewhere and your feet are dangling or you have no back support. The body can handle that every once in a while. We are simply trying to replace some of our “bad” patterns with more “good” patterns.

 

Free Trainings For Your Post-Baby Body

Looking for support in rebuilding your post-baby core or hips? Check out our free masterclasses. 

Myofascial Release and Abdominal Massage for Diastasis Recti

Myofascial Release and Abdominal Massage for Diastasis Recti

This post is for anyone who feels like she is doing everything right for her core, but can’t seem to get rid of her diastasis (abdominal separation). 

What do I mean when I say doing everything right? There are some key principles you should be working on to help your core muscles come back together.

These include: 

(And, these are the principles I teach in the Heal Your Core With Yoga program!)

BUT…if you are doing all of that, and you diastasis is still sticking around, read below for a technique that can help. 

Pregnancy Changes Muscles, Connective Tissue, and Fascia

During pregnancy, the core changes significantly! The top layer of abdominal muscles, the rectus abdominis (a.k.a. the 6-pack abs!) separate. 

But the changes aren’t isolated to just our muscles. The connective tissue that runs down the center of the abdomen (the linea alba) gets thinner and weaker. The fascia, a layer of connective tissue that encases our muscles, can also shift and change. 

And sometimes, all this movement causes areas of the fascia to become tight and restricted. That tightness can prevent our abdominal muscles from coming back together. 

Pregnancy also changes muscle patterns. When the deepest layer of abdominal muscles (the transverse abdominis) gets weak during pregnancy, other abdominal muscles overwork. When the rectus and oblique muscles are overactive, it can prevent the deeper core muscles from working properly…which prevents your abdominal muscles from coming back together!

So, releasing fascial restrictions and overactive muscles can help bring the core back together. 

Myofascial Release and Abdominal Massage for Diastasis Recti

How to perform myofascial release and abdominal massage for diastasis recti:

(For a visual of this watch the video below)



  • Use massage oil or coconut oil and massage directly on the skin of your belly. 
  • Begin at your ribs and gently move your hands toward your naval (belly button area). Do this action across the ribs and down both sides of the abdomen, and up from the public bone. 
  • When you find an area of tenderness, gently massage that area and let it soften. 
  • Give some extra time and attention to any area that has a scar from surgery. 
  • Then come directly down the centerline of the body (near the connective tissue where the two sides of the abdomen come together). If you find knots or tenderness here, spend extra time massaging. Massage both vertically and horizontally along this line. 
  • Imagine sending loving energy from your hands into this area. Personally, when I put the intention of love into my pelvis, it’s very powerful for me. It feels very necessary and important. 
  • When you are done, allow your hands to rest on your belly and take a deep breath in, then open your mouth and exhale, letting any negative feelings leave your body with that breath. 

If you’re not in the habit of paying attention to your belly or touching your belly, this can bring up a lot of feelings.

You may find fear, or shame, or disappointment when you begin attending to this area. Allow yourself to feel those feelings. They will shift with time.

Using your hands to release restricted fascia and overworking muscles can do wonders to help your abdominal muscles come back together.

9 Unexpected Causes of Hip Pain

9 Unexpected Causes of Hip Pain

When women experience hip issues like feeling tight, achy, or unstable, they usually assume…it’s all in the hips. 

But many of the issues we have in our hips are caused by imbalances elsewhere in the body

These unexpected causes of hip issues may surprise you but, once identified, can help you correct and address ongoing hip issues. 

9 Unexpected Causes of Hip Issues

1. A weak core.

The core stabilizes the pelvis from above. If the core isn’t doing its job, this can destabilize the pelvis resulting in hip pain and discomfort.

2. Tight back muscles.

When your core is weak, your back will overwork to try to “pick up the slack”, resulting in tight back muscles. Overworked back muscles can pull on the back of the pelvis and create hip issues.

3. Weak glutes.

The glutes are key to stabilize the pelvis from below. But many postpartum women have trouble activating their glutes. If this area isn’t working effectively, it can create pelvis instability and hip issues.

(But fixing hip issues takes more than just strengthening the glutes)

4. Hamstring dominance.

If your hamstrings are working harder than your glutes, your hips can be adversely affected. 

5. Pelvic floor tightness.

The pelvic floor is another set of muscles that stabilize the hips from below (along with the glutes). If you have an overactive pelvic floor, or one side of your pelvic floor that is tighter than the other, it will impact the way your hips feel and function. 

6. Improper Alignment.

The pelvis is the relay station between the upper and lower body. If parts of your body are out of alignment, simple acts like walking, standing, or sitting can have a negative effect on your overall hip health. 

7. Glute clenching.

A lot of women have at least some level of ongoing glute squeezing. Squeezing the glutes is a way for the body to compensate for a weak core BUT it can create more glute and pelvic floor weakness leading to even worse hip issues. 

8. Deep hip rotator issues.

The muscles deep inside your leg that rotate your leg outward (like the piriformis) can get overactive and tight, particularly in a postpartum body, and cause hip discomfort.

9. Tight adductor muscles.

The adductor muscles, in our inner thigh, can become overactive and tight. These muscles can lock down and become tight as a means of keeping things steady when other muscles aren’t working properly. If one side is working harder than the other, or if both sides are very tight, that can pull the pelvis out of alignment and hurt your hips!

—-

Hip issues are complicated issues often resulting from whole-body muscular imbalances

But they can be fixed! 

Join me for a FREE 5-Day Online workshop series called Fix Your Hips, Get Back to Life. 

It runs from April 13-17, 2020 and will dive deep in what muscular imbalances you are experiencing and how you can correct them. 

Click here or below to learn more and save your spot. 

3 Ways To Strengthen An Underactive Pelvic Floor

3 Ways To Strengthen An Underactive Pelvic Floor

When you have an underactive pelvic floor, the goal is to strengthen and balance the muscles of that area. 

(If you’re asking…how do I know if my pelvic floor is underactive? Head over to this post for our guide. If your symptoms sound more like an overactive pelvic floor, check out this post!)

If your pelvic floor muscles are not working as hard as you need them to, you can use several techniques to increase the level of engagement and activity in this area. 

3 Techniques To Strengthen Pelvic Floor Muscles

Kegels

You’ve heard of Kegels.  Kegels are a great way for people with an underactive pelvic floor to increase the level of strength in those pelvic floor muscles. 

*If you have an overactive pelvic floor, Kegels can make things worse. 

But most of us haven’t been taught to Kegel properly.

Typically, you are taught to squeeze the muscles as if you are shutting off the flow of urine.

But, if you only shut off the flow of urine, you are doing an incomplete Kegel! 

The pelvic floor is a set of big, broad muscles that go from the pubic bone all the way to the tailbone. If you’re only thinking of shutting off urine flow, you’re missing some big parts of that muscle. 

So how do we do a proper Kegel? 

Step 1: Engage Properly 

Pelvic floor muscles are responsible for squeezing AND lifting the pelvic floor. We want to find both these actions when doing a kegel. 

As you Kegel, think about squeezing to shut off the flow of urine.

Now also visualize a diamond underneath your vagina. As you squeeze, imagine pulling that diamond up within you to lift the pelvic floor. Done correctly, you might feel the engagement deep inside the lower abdomen. 

 

Step 2: Engage the entirety of the pelvic floor

We can access the full set of muscles by changing our pelvis position. 

To begin, find the muscles in the front of the pelvic floor. 

Start by untucking the pelvis and coming to sit more in the front of the pelvic floor (more toward the vaginal opening). From this position, take a deep breath in, then as you exhale engage, squeeze (like you are shutting off the flow of urine) and imagine drawing the diamond up inside of your vagina.  

You just engaged the front of the pelvic floor! 

 

Next, find the muscles in the back of the pelvic floor. 

To access the back of the pelvic floor, tuck your pelvis under you so you are sitting more toward your tailbone. Inhale, let the muscles relax. As you exhale, squeeze the muscles like you are shutting off the flow of gas from your anus. Also, imagine drawing a diamond up inside your anus to find the lift of those muscles. 

That’s the back of the pelvic floor! 

 

Now come to a neutral pelvis position, sitting directly on the sit bones. 

Inhale, let the muscles relax. Exhale and squeeze like you are shutting off the flow of urine AND gas, while also imagine drawing diamonds up within you. 

 

You’ve found your entire pelvic floor! 

 

You may find that either the back or front is weaker. This is totally normal. The more work you do on this, the more you can create balance through your entire pelvic floor. 

 

Strengthen Abdominal Muscles 

Our pelvic floor and our core are designed to work together. 

And sometimes it can be easier to get the pelvic floor muscles to turn on by also contracting the muscles of the abdominals.

The inhale naturally relaxes the core and the pelvic floor. The exhale naturally engages the core and the pelvic floor. 

So to begin, we will use the breath and inhale to allow everything to relax. As you exhale, imagine that you are engaging the pelvic floor like I just described in the kegel section. 

 

Next, think about bringing that engagement into your belly. Engaging your low belly, mid-belly, and upper belly.  You can use your hands as a guide to move the engagement up the body. 

 

Remember, engagement is a subtle action. You shouldn’t be clenching or crunching, simply allow the engagement to move up. If you’re having trouble, try taking the hands and wrapping them around from the back to the front to help your body find the action (see the video for an example).

As you do this, you should feel tall and long if the correct muscles are firing. Remember to use the exhale whenever you are exerting yourself to help this engagement when you pick up your kids, sneeze, or cough. 

 

Strengthen With A Pelvic Floor Trainer

A pelvic floor trainer is a piece of smart technology.  Inserted into your vagina, it gives feedback to your phone or computer on how your muscles are working as you practice engaging. 

The trainer will give you cues to engage your pelvic floor and it will help you work on overall strength (e.g. how strong the muscles are) and the muscles’ ability to work quickly (e.g. to protect you as you are about to sneeze).  We will be releasing a more detailed post about pelvic floor trainers very soon. Stay tuned! 

These are three simple ways to help increase strength in an underactive pelvic floor. By doing so, you can improve pelvic floor function which will allow you to get back to your active lifestyle without limitation!  

Want to learn more about strengthening your post-baby core/pelvic floor with yoga? Click below to join my free masterclass.