3 Simple Post-Baby Core Strengthening Exercises

3 Simple Post-Baby Core Strengthening Exercises

Post-baby core-strengthening exercise need to be easy and approachable.

Below, I list three of my favorite, easy, post-baby core strengthening moves.

BONUS! the first two can be done immediately after your baby is born (as soon as you feel ready).



These moves target the transverse abdominis muscles, the deepest layer of muscles in our core. 

Post-Baby Core Strength Exercise 1: Lower Transverse Engagement

3 simple core strengtheners

This first exercise is great for when you just had a baby and are spending lots of time lying in bed nursing.

  • Lying on your back, bend your knees, and place the feet flat on the floor.
  • Notice your breath and allow it to deepen.
  • Place the heel of your hands on your ASIS bones (those bones at the front of the hips) and let the fingers rest on the low belly.
  • As you inhale, let everything relax.
  • As you exhale, you are going to imagine your ASIS bones drawing together toward the middle of your lower abdomen to engage your low belly. (Watch the video if you are confused!)

With some practice, you should feel the soft part of your belly (also known as your lower transverse) firm up slightly as you exhale.

You may also feel the pelvic floor engage, co-contracting with your lower transverse.

If you don’t feel that, don’t worry about it. Just keep practicing and focusing on relaxing on the inhale and engaging with the exhale.

Post-Baby Core Strength Exercise 2: Seated Transverse Engagement

3 simple core strengtheners

In the second exercise, we will focus on transverse engagement while seated.

  • Seated on a chair, find a neutral pelvis position where your sit bones connect to the chair.
  • Slide yourself back against the back of the chair so that your core doesn’t have to hold you upright. 
  • Again, we are going to use our breath. As you inhale, let the belly relax.
  • As you exhale, think about those transverse muscles that make up the ‘corset’ of your body engaging which will pull your belly gently inward.. They wrap from the back of your spine all the way to the front. And reach from your ribs down to your public bone.

As they engage, you should feel like you get taller and longer not like you are crouching or crunching.

Finding this feeling can take practice so, give it some time!

Post-Baby Core Strength Exercise 3: 90/90 Breathing and Transverse Engagement

3 simple core strengtheners

For the third exercise, I want you to return to your back. If you have a yoga block at home, grab that and bring it to the floor with you. This Technique is called 90/90 breathing because your legs create 90 degree angles at your hips and knees.

  • Take your legs slightly wider than your knees and internally rotate your legs just a bit. If you have one, take the block between your knees.
  • Now, find your breath.
  • As you inhale, everything relaxes. Try to inhale very deeply to prepare for a nice, long, exhale.
  • As you exhale, draw the pelvic floor up first. Continue exhaling and draw those hip bones together to engage your low belly. Keep exhaling and move the engagement even higher into the middle/upper transverse. Eventually, you may even feel like your upper transverse abdominals pull your ribs down so they come in line with the hips.
  • Then take a deep inhale and relax everything, and begin engaging again on the exhale from the bottom up again. Pelvic floor, low belly, mid belly, upper belly, ending with a big inhale.

If this simple version is very available to you, you can try giving the block a bit of a squeeze on the exhale to increase engagement.

A quick safety note: if you feel any pressure down on your pelvic floor while doing the 90/90, ease up and work on balancing or strengthening your pelvic floor first.

There they are! 3 simple core-strengthening exercises.

Keep in mind…with postpartum core-strengthening there are two factors to consider.

The first is general strength, which we focused on in these exercises today. This creates an excellent foundation for your core-health. However, it isn’t the only piece. If you ONLY focus on core strengthening exercises, your core will only be strong when you do those types of movements. You will be missing a key part of core health.

The second, often overlooked, factor is core function. You want to make sure that your core strength translates to functional movements like twisting, reaching, and bending. Functional strength allows you to move through your day with strength and ensures you don’t damage your core through every day movements.

Yoga is an amazing tool for both general and functional core strength because it takes your body through a full range of movement under controlled conditions.

When we combine these two factors – general and functional core strength – your core will be strong in ANY situation or position you throw at it.

Watch the FREE Yoga and Diastasis Masterclass!

Core-Safe Baby Carrying

Core-Safe Baby Carrying

One key to healing your core after pregnancy is your alignment. I often discuss how three key alignment changes (hips over heels, neutral pelvis, and neutral ribs) minimize intra-abdominal pressure and turn on the deep core muscles.

But for many new moms, a common question arises: how can I maintain alignment and healing while baby-carrying or baby-wearing?

Holding a squirming bundle in our arms, or in a carrier, throws off our posture and strains our core.

So let’s discuss how to do this in the most core-safe way.

How to Baby Carry In a Core-Safe Way

The Newborn days

In those first few weeks, when your newborn has no head control, you’re likely using your hips to support the weight, and rounding over to keep them secure. It’s very hard to maintain good alignment in this newborn stage!

The good news…This only lasts a couple months. Don’t put extra pressure on yourself in those early days.

Once Your Baby Has Head Control

However, once baby has a little more head control and is getting heavier, it’s time to become more mindful of your body position.

Holding in Arms

Our tendency is to throw one hip out to one side (usually the same hip every time) and let the baby rest on the shelf of our hip bone. This position is less than ideal.

It makes it hard to engage our deep core muscles and increases outward pressure on the abdominal connective tissue. This increase in pressure is particularly harmful if you have diastasis- recti or a prolapsed pelvic floor.

We can ease that pressure by keeping the hips square. When you pick the baby up, use your arm to hold the baby (as much as possible) rather than the hips. When one arm gets tired, switch to the other side. You can also take them in front with both arms as support. At first, this feels hard and strange. With time, you will build arm strength and it will become easier.

As your baby becomes a toddler, try to use the piggy-back method when they need to be carried. This allows you to keep alignment and squared hips while giving tired toddler legs a break.

Baby Wearing

For those of you using a baby carrier, here are a few tips that will help you maintain alignment and minimize intra-abdominal pressure.

As soon as baby is big enough, move them to the back instead of carrying on the front. This allows you to use the natural protection of the bones in the back, the ribcage and spine, to avoid straining the core.

If your baby isn’t big enough or isn’t ready to be on the back, make sure that while you front carry you don’t shift your hips forward as you get tired. Instead, lean forward slightly and take breaks often.

Regardless of whether you wear your baby in front or back, makes sure that the straps are fitted properly. You want the baby nice and snug against your body and the waistband snug around the hips. When the straps are too loose, we tend to move into poor alignment to compensate.

In general, make sure you take breaks as often as possible to avoid fatigue in your muscles.

Even though it feels like you will be carrying that heavy child around forever, I promise you, those days will be behind you soon enough! Your core (and entire body) will appreciate the time and attention you put into proper baby carrying during this season of your life.

Watch the FREE Yoga and Diastasis Masterclass!

Two Tips To Stop Pelvic Floor Leaks

Two Tips To Stop Pelvic Floor Leaks

As moms, it has become normal to joke about peeing our pants. I get it.  We use humor when talking about difficult topics.

While incontinence may be common in postpartum women, it is not normal. In fact, leaking is a sign of dysfunction in the core/pelvic floor system.

Today I’ve got two tips to share for those of you struggling with leaking. These are actions you can take right now to work on improving this.

Tip #1: Find Pelvic Floor Balance 

First, a little anatomy. Your pelvic floor is a huge set of muscles that connect from the pubic bone at the front of your pelvis, to the tailbone at the back of your pelvis. We should be able to engage the entire set of muscles. But, often, women who leak are instructed to “do more kegels” by just squeezing the muscles that shut off the flow of urine. That cue engages only a small portion of the pelvic floor muscles.

 You want to make sure you are engaging the entirety of your pelvic floor – both the front and back. We do this by playing with our pelvis positioning.

To test out your balance, try this. Sit on a chair with your feet flat on the ground.

 

 

 

1. First, engage the muscles at the front of the pelvic floor.

a) Tilt your hip bones forward to move your pelvis into an anterior pelvic tilt position.

b) Then engage your pelvic floor by squeezing the muscles that shut off the flow of urine.

c) Try to hold that engagement for 10 seconds and observe what happens.

2. Then engage the muscles at the back of the pelvic floor.

a) Tilt your hip bones back and tuck your pelvis under you (Posterior Pelvic Tilt Position).  

b) Now engage the back of your pelvic floor by squeezing the muscles that shut off the flow of gas.

c) Again try and hold that engagement for 10 seconds. 

 

 

3. Now engage the entire pelvic floor.

a) Bring your pelvis back to a neutral position (sitting on your sit bones)

b)Now engage the entire pelvic floor by engaging the muscles that shut off the flow of urine AND the muscles that shut off the flow of gas.

c) Now you have all your pelvic floor muscles firing. What happens when you try to hold for 10 seconds? 

While doing this, ask yourself: how is your balance? Does one part feel stronger or weaker? If so, you would benefit from creating balance in those muscles.

You might be asking…but what does this have to do with leaking?

The muscles that are responsible for holding urine are in the front of your pelvis.

By positioning your upper body in a slightly forward position, you encourage the muscles at the front of the pelvic floor to engage more readily…which helps prevent leaking! (Watch the video above for a clear visual of how this works!)

Tip #2: Work the Fast and Slow Twitch Muscles  

So now that we’ve got the body positioned to help these muscles fire more efficiently, the second step is to work both muscle types. Your pelvic floor has two types of muscles, fast-twitch and slow-twitch.

The slow-twitch muscles help hold your internal organs in. They are designed for holding a low level of engagement over a long period of time. When you hold a kegel for 10 seconds, you are engaging your slow-twitch muscles. If they are weak, you may find them getting shaky as you hold them. However, these are NOT the muscles that stop the flow of urine.

Fast twitch muscles turn on with sudden demand (like when you sneeze or hit the ground in a jumping jack). These are the primary muscles that help you prevent leaking. These muscles engage quickly, for just a moment, and then they relax.  

For this reason, it’s important that your pelvic floor training works both types of muscles. You want to engage your pelvic floor with long holds (e.g. 10 seconds) and multiple reps of quick pulses (squeeze, release, squeeze, release). This will train your pelvic floor to respond to the demands of daily life and those sudden moments of intense pressure (like a sneeze).

The unpleasant leaking that many moms experience does not have to be a fact of life. Body positioning AND training both fast- and slow-twitch muscles can help reduce leaking once and for all.

Watch the FREE Yoga and Diastasis Masterclass!

3 Ways To Relieve Tightness In Your Neck And Shoulders

3 Ways To Relieve Tightness In Your Neck And Shoulders

 

Upper back and neck discomfort are some of the most common issues we hear about from moms.

 

Why is that?

 

Well, for one, moms spend a lot of time ‘rounding.’ As a mother to a little one you may be breastfeeding and carrying babies. On top of that, we live in a culture with excessive sitting and we spend all day looking at a phone. These all contribute to a more rounded posture. This rounding causes muscle imbalances that lead to pain.

There are also specific postpartum changes that can worsen this issue. These include extreme tightness of back muscles and changes in our breathing patterns from pregnancy. I have three simple tips that can help reduce this common discomfort.

Here are my top 3 very simple tips for addressing and reducing this discomfort:

Tip 1: Correct your head position.

When your head is aligned over the spine, it puts very little weight on your spine. But if you move your head forward, you increase the pressure/weight pulling on your spine substantially. When our spine and head are stacked properly, things are working as they should be. But once that stack has shifted, we create a lot more work for our muscles.

The best way to remedy this is what I call ‘the eavesdrop.’ Instead of leaning in, imagine you are listening to a super juicy conversation…behind you. When you do this, your head pops back in line with the rest of your spine and creates some immediate relief for your upper back and neck.

 

Tip 2: Breathe properly.

During pregnancy, many of us learn to breathe in a less than ideal way. Instead of using our diaphragm and extending our rib cage (as is ideal), we start using secondary muscles in our necks and shoulders to breathe. Breathe in, shoulders lift. They lift to try to create more space in the rib cage, but the result is fatigued and tight muscles.

Instead, keep your shoulders down, keep the neck soft, and inhale and feel your rib cage expand left to right and forward and back. When you do this, your belly is going to move and your rib cage will expand. The shoulders and neck won’t need to work to help you breathe, and can get a much needed break.

 

Tip 3: Open your back body.

In the previous tip, we talked about expanding the rib cage to breathe…however, a lot of postpartum women are extremely tight in their back muscles and find that when they try to expand their rib cage, it doesn’t move! Those tight muscles prevent the movement of your ribs.

To open the back body, I recommend a simple exercise. Find something low to the ground, like a stable chair, and come into a squatting position in front of it. Grab hold of the bottom (chair legs, couch, etc) with your arms around your legs. Have a rounded spine, and drop your chin to your chest.

As the legs are pressing against the front of our body and we breathe in, this opens the back muscles from the inside. Let your head relax down, and breathe really deeply and feel the expansion in the back body.

Do 5-10 breathes like that every day to help open up these muscles and rib breathing will become much easier.

A quick note: if this doesn’t feel good on your pelvic floor…maybe it feels like you will pee if you do that, you can modify this by sitting in a chair and place your feet on blocks in front of you. Wrap your arms around yourself, and tuck your chin into your chest and do these same deep breaths.

Becoming a mom does NOT mean you must struggle with tight, achy necks and shoulders. If you are looking for a comprehensive system to help strengthen your post-baby core and bring some balance back to the body, you might be interested in my FREE training: How to Strengthen Your Post-Baby Core (Once and for all!). Click here to sign up.

Watch the FREE Yoga and Diastasis Masterclass!

Why Hip Openers Are NOT The Solution To Tight, Achy Hips

Why Hip Openers Are NOT The Solution To Tight, Achy Hips

Some of the most common (and beloved!) poses in yoga include traditional hip openers…but these poses may not be serving your post-baby body. Read below (or watch the video) to understand why!

As a new yoga teacher I LOVED putting people into some long hip openers. Think half-pigeon and Baddha Konasana, poses where legs are externally rotating to open the hips.

Well, you know what they say… when you know better, you do better. Now, when I see extended hip openers in yoga, I cringe. For most postpartum bodies, these poses aren’t helping…and are possibly making hip issues worse.

Pregnancy As An Injury

In many ways, pregnancy acts like an injury to the body.

Pregnancy creates certain muscular imbalances and these imbalances destabilize parts of the body.

Most notably, the core and pelvic floor weaken, and the back and hip flexors tighten to compensate.

The Role of The Core

In a normal body, the core creates stability for the spine and pelvis (among other jobs).

The muscle tone in your core keeps your spine from being too loosy-goosy. This prevents herniated discs and other back issues that we don’t want.

The abdominals also stabilize the pelvis from above and keep the pelvis from shifting around with every step we take.

Muscular Changes During Pregnancy

However, as your baby grows during pregnancy, your core muscles weaken and can’t provide the stability the body needs.

Other parts of the body pick up the slack. The muscles of the back and the hip flexors, especially the psoas, lock down to stabilize the spine.

This creates a lovely, messy cascade in the body.

With the psoas doing the job of the core, the pelvis loses stability.

As a result, another muscle, the tensor fasciae latae (TFL), starts locking down.

The TFL is on your outer hip, around where your pant pockets would be. It’s primarily responsible for turning the leg out.  

But when it needs to, it can tighten to create stability in the pelvis. (Sidenote: the TFL connects to the IT band. If your ITB has been bothering you since pregnancy, the TFL might be the culprit!)

So, as your core is weakening, the back, psoas and TFL are working overtime on jobs they aren’t designed to do. This impacts other body parts.

The TFL is a bully to the glutes, and shuts them off.

When that happens it causes more instability for the pelvis, so other areas kick in.

Sometimes this includes the pelvic floor. (If you’ve got a tight pelvic floor…this might be why!)

What do you get from this big mess?

Things like extremely tight hips, an unstable pelvis, SI joint instability, IT band flare ups, and that post-pregnancy mom-butt!

STRETCHING IS NOT THE ANSWER!

When we feel tight and achy…what do we do?

Most of us immediately think ‘STRETCH!’

We get into half-pigeon and other hip openers to get some relief.

Unfortunately, when we stretch, we force muscles to lengthen that are working REALLY hard to create stability.

Think about that for a moment…what are you doing to your body?

By stretching muscles that are holding things in place, you destabilize the entire system.

This is the reason that any relief that comes from the stretching doesn’t last for long…and why you may feel EVEN tighter afterward.

Your muscles are trying to protect you from the length you’ve created.

A Different Approach

So what do we do? If you’re feeling chronically tight or unstable, I know you want relief.

And while stretching can be helpful, our top priority must be to rebalance the imbalances pregnancy created.

We need to strengthen muscles that are weak so that the overworked muscles can chill out!

And…you’re in luck, because I have a FREE Happy Hips Masterclass that will show you how to do just that. 

Watch the FREE Happy Hips Masterclass!