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.

4 Ways To Release An Overactive Pelvic Floor

4 Ways To Release An Overactive Pelvic Floor

If your pelvic floor is overactive, your goal is to find ways to release and relax those muscles. 

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

 In an overactive pelvic floor, the muscles are chronically active. Often, they are overworking to create stability in your pelvis. This can lead to dysfunction that includes pain, poorly functioning muscles, leaking urine and a variety of other issues. 

These four simple exercises can relax and release those pelvic floor muscles to create balance and reduce discomfort. 

Happy Baby Breathing. 

This simple breathing exercise starts by laying on your back in happy baby yoga position. Take your feet up and grab the outside of your feet with your hands, if possible.

If this position is challenging for you, just bend your knees and grab behind your thighs. This position naturally stretches the pelvic floor muscles. 

From your desired position, allow your back and the back of the pelvis to settle down into the floor. Focus on the breath, particularly the inhale, which naturally expands the pelvic floor. 

Begin deepening the breath and try to feel the inhale expand and stretch the pelvic floor.  Let the exhale be passive (don’t worry about anything happening in your pelvic floor). Don’t worry if you can’t feel the breath in your pelvic floor at first. It can take some practice to get it to work!

Try to do 5-10 of these breaths per day to naturally relax those muscles.

Myofascial Release With A Ball.

Using a ball for myofascial release is another way you can begin to relax and release these muscles. Using a racquetball, tennis ball, or another small ball you have around the house (play with the size and firmness to find what’s comfortable for you), place the ball to the inside of one of your sitting bones

(Not sure where your sitting bones are? bend over slightly and you will feel two bony protrusions in the center of your butt. That’s them!!)

In this position, the ball will be on one side of your pelvic floor.

If this feels too intense, place a towel or pillow underneath you to reduce the sensation. 

With the ball under you, begin to take deep breaths, imagining you are breathing your pelvic floor into the ball. This will massage the muscles, breaking up some of the tension in the pelvic floor. 

Stay there for a few breaths, then move the ball slightly forward, still on one side of the pelvic floor, to just behind your vagina.

 Repeat the deep breaths. 

Repeat on the second side to get into all the deep muscles in this area.

Internal Massage with a Pelvic Floor Massager 

An internal pelvic floor massage tool is a device that you insert into your vagina to release both the superficial and deep muscles of the pelvic floor and deep hip.

It simulates the manual release that occurs when a  pelvic floor physiotherapist manually releases your PF.

This is a very direct, and effective way to release tension that is chronically held, and difficult to access, in your pelvic floor. 

We have a complete guide for Pelvic Floor Massage, including a review of the top pelvic floor massage tools. Click here to read

Meditate 

Meditation is also an effective way to address pelvic floor overactivity. Typically, women with overactive pelvic floors tend to be more type-A, in general. 

Implementing a regular, 10-15 minute daily meditation practice in your day can help reduce the level of tension in your body in general, including the tension in your pelvic floor. 

These are four simple ways to help reduce activity in an overactive pelvic floor. By doing so, you can improve pelvic floor function which will allow you to get back to your active lifestyle without fear of pain or incontinence!  

Postpartum Issues You Are Tolerating (That You Don’t Need To!)

Postpartum Issues You Are Tolerating (That You Don’t Need To!)

So many painful and uncomfortable postpartum body issues are considered normal. 

They are chronic issues. And society tells women they are  a normal part of “becoming a mom.”

Well I call BS. 

There is a difference between issues that are common, meaning many women experience them, and issues that are normal, meaning they are a necessary byproduct of the birth and delivery process.

Many of the COMMON issues women are experiencing CAN and SHOULD be corrected by proper rebalancing of the postpartum body.

Check out our list of postpartum issues that are COMMON..but not normal.

Pelvic floor dysfunction… in other words, you are leaking pee:

We hear this all. the. time. This has become a joke in our culture. Many moms will say it’s just a ‘normal’ part of postpartum life. “Oh, you had a baby? Well…have fun on the trampoline!” Leaking urine during the course of daily life isn’t a joke. In fact, it is a sign that your body isn’t working properly. It’s a sign that your body is not handling the load you are putting on it and is in fact a warning that your pelvic floor is not working properly. So while this is a common issue, it should not be a normal way of living once you are out of the immediate postpartum, healing, phase. Learn more about this issue (and ways to minimize leaking) right here

Weak Vaginal Wall Muscles…aka your tampons are falling out:

If you have the sensation that your vagina can’t hold tampons or your menstrual cup in, or if they feel unstable or just ‘not right’, this is a sign that the musculature in this part of your body is weak and needs to be strengthened. Pelvic floor physiotherapy is commonplace in some counties (bonjour, France!) as a way of retraining these muscles to work properly so these annoying issues go away. 

Unstable core making you feel like Raggedy Ann or a limp noodle:

When I first went back to work after having a baby, my boss, and friend, noticed that I was always collapsed in my chair, leaning over the office table. I looked and FELT like Raggedy Ann because I was incredibly weak in my core. If you just had a baby, this is normal. Those muscles will take some time to recover. But if you are a few months or even years out from baby being born and still feel like a limp noodle when sitting upright or have a hard time staying upright for any length of time, this is a sign that that you haven’t recovered your deep core strength. The Heal Your Core With Yoga program can help you with this!

Tight back muscles…feeling old before your time:

Nothing like a chronically achy back to make you feel old and creaky. The paraspinals, back muscles that line the spine, become overworked and tight when the core is weak. The back muscles start doing the work for the core when it slacks off. Retraining and strengthening the core lets those  back muscles relax a bit and release their iron grip. Back tightness and the sense that you always need to stretch those tense muscles will ease as we bring the core back into balance. P.S. If you wake up every morning with back pain, check out this quick video tip.

Neck and shoulder discomfort:

The tightness and discomfort you feel in your neck and shoulders may not seem related to the changes of pregnancy, but there are chain reactions occuring your body that creep all the way up to the top. Think about nursing, rocking and holding a baby in the post-partum period. Now, add to this the fact that most women are not breathing properly after having a baby, and have muscles compensating for the weakness in their noodly core. Together, these lead to tension and tightness. For three simple ways to reduce neck and shoulder tension, head here

If you are struggling with any of these issues, know that you are NOT alone. We work with women everyday to help them strengthen and rebalance their postpartum body.

We’d love to help you heal too. If you are interested, check out our free trainings here

Walking Alignment Tips For A Strong Core

Walking Alignment Tips For A Strong Core

 

If you’ve suffered from pelvic floor issues or a lack of core strength, you may have already ditched your 3-mile run. But you shouldn’t give up on lacing up your shoes and getting out the door.

Instead of running, try walking. Walking your former running route is a great full body, cardio activity. It also helps create conditions for a healthier core. You read that right.

Walking in proper alignment can help you create a stronger, healthier core. How? Let’s dive in!

 

Why Walk Consistently?

How does walking impact core strength and healing? 

Stronger Glutes and Happy Hips

Walking strengthens the glutes and stretches the hip muscles. (And stronger glutes contribute to a health pelvic floor.) Both of these actions help bring your body into proper alignment. Proper alignment is the key for a healthy core.

Increased Circulation and Healing

Walking regularly increases circulation. Increased circulation can speed the healing of connective tissue and muscles. This is good for both pelvic floor issues and diastasis recti (abdominal separation). 

If you aren’t sure if your walk is aligned correctly, pay attention to the next part of this post.

How to Walk With Good Alignment

I can already hear you protesting. “But, Catherine, I already know how to walk. I learned that ages ago.”

Yes, you know how to walk. What you probably don’t know is how to walk properly. All the time we spend sitting has weakened our walking muscles. Those weakened muscles don’t perform as well as they should, leading to walking with suboptimal alignment.

The good news is that you can fix your walk by becoming more aware of it. After that, you set about adjusting your stride to encourage proper body alignment. Here are four things to look for when you’re walking:

Roll the Foot Heel to Toe

The heel of your foot should hit the ground before any other part of your foot. When you walk, you want there to be a smooth rolling motion from the heel to the ball of the foot and then on to the toes. When you walk, try to notice which part of your foot hits the ground first. If it’s not your heel, make a conscious effort to change your stride and focus on having your heel hit the ground first. The rest of the stride should follow after that.

Use the Foot to Push Off the Ground

In an ideal walk, your foot should push off the ground, not slide along it or shuffle. To achieve this walk, first hit the ground with your heel. From your heel, roll the all the way to the toes. As the ball of the foot and the toes are rolling onto the ground, you should start to push the ground away from you.

Does that sound like what happens when you walk? You may need spend some time noticing how you walk to identify areas that need improvement.

Keep Legs Hip-Width Apart

For proper alignment to happen, your legs need to remain hip-width apart when you walk. But how can you tell how wide apart your legs are? Try this test: Place your feet on each side of a sidewalk crack. Take a few steps forward and notice where your feet go.

If they move towards the crack when you walk, you need to work on keeping your legs at hip-width. If your feet stay an even distance from the crack (or other line), you’re fine.

When you’re testing your stride, be mindful of your foot alignment. Are you turning your toes outward, away from the crack? Your feet should be pointed straight forward and should be parallel to the crack.

Once you’ve determined how you normally walk, find what hip-width looks like for you. Start becoming mindful of what your legs feel like when you walk with them hip-width apart. It may feel strange at first, but keep practicing it.

Move From the Hip (Straight)

In a proper walk, you shouldn’t use your knee to move your leg. Instead, your movement should come from your hip. This is going to sound counterintuitive, but trust me.

Don’t bend your knee and lift your leg when you walk. You should push off the foot and send the leg back behind you from the hip. When you start walking from the hip, you’ll notice a difference. Your knee will feel kind of spongy. There will be a soft bend to it, but there shouldn’t be much force behind the bend.

Pelvis Stays Straight

Once you start walking from the hip, be sure to keep your pelvis from moving. When you move from the hip, you might find that your pelvis rotates with your steps. You end up moving your right hip forward for your right step. And the left hip moves forward for the left step.

The movement in your pelvis isn’t ideal. It doesn’t help open your hip muscles. You want your pelvis to stay straight and allow the legs to extend within the hip.

Eyes on the Horizon

When you walk, look ahead of you. Too often, we get wrapped up in what we’re doing. We tend to look down at our phones, our kids, etc. What we really need to do is look to the horizon. That helps ensure that your body is upright and not leaning forward.

The next time you find yourself looking down when you walk, look at the horizon. You may see something you’ve never noticed on your normal walking route.

Get a Core-Strong Walk

Developing a core-strong walk is all about technique and consistency. It will likely take you some time to identify how to improve your walk. Once you have the problem areas noted, you’ll need regular practice to make your new walk feel natural.

Even with pelvic floor issues, cardio isn’t out of your reach, especially if you develop a core-strong walk.

Watch the FREE Yoga and Diastasis Masterclass!

Postpartum Crunches: When and How To Do Them Safely

Postpartum Crunches: When and How To Do Them Safely

If you’ve done any research on postpartum core strength or diastasis recti, you’ve likely seen conflicting information on crunches. 

“Never do them again!”

“They are the only/best way to heal your core!”

Confusing, no? 

Well, like most things in life, the answer to “Can/Should I do crunches?” is…complicated.

So, let’s talk about crunches.

When to avoid them, how to know when you are ready to get back to them, and how to do crunches in a way that won’t damage or re-injure your postpartum core.  

WHEN TO AVOID CRUNCHES

 

A common recommendation for postpartum women is to avoid crunches altogether. 

Where does this advice come from? 

Newly postpartum women often have a separation of their abdominal muscles (diastasis recti) and a lack of coordination and muscle tone in their core/pelvic floor muscles. 

 

Not sure if you have a diastasis? Here’s a self-test video. 

 

This lack of muscle coordination makes doing a crunch with proper technique almost impossible!

Proper crunch technique requires that you engage your deepest layer of core muscles (the transverse abdominis) and your pelvic floor as you crunch. 

 When those muscles are engaged, your core will have a very flat appearance as you crunch (there won’t be any doming or raised area in the middle).

If those deep core muscles aren’t working, when you do a crunch it puts extra pressure on the weak connective tissue of the abdominals (making a diastasis worse) or pushes pressure downward into the pelvic floor muscles (which can contribute to prolapse or pelvic floor dysfunction).

That increased pressure out on the belly is also the reason that, for some postpartum women, crunches can make a pooched belly appearance worse.

So, If you can’t engage your deepest core muscles effectively (the transverse abdominis and the muscles of the pelvic floor), then you want to stay away from crunches until you have better control over those muscles. That will allow you to protect your pelvic floor and connective tissue from the pressure inside your abdomen.

If you know you have abdominal separation or need help getting your muscles firing in a coordinated fashion, Heal Your Core With Yoga is a great place to start with rebuilding those core muscles from the inside out. 

Once you’ve got your deep core muscles and pelvic floor coordinated and strong do you still need to avoid crunches?

No, You’re ready for crunches! 

PROPER CRUNCH TECHNIQUE

Once you have those muscles working, let’s make sure you are doing a crunch the RIGHT way. Poor crunch technique can cause problems!!

The core and pelvic floor naturally engage when you breathe out. So we will use that natural engagement to your advantage! 

 – Lying on your back, breathe in deeply.

 – Then, on the exhale, engage the pelvic floor and transverse abdominis and imagine a corset wrapping around your belly as you lift your head and shoulders off the ground. 

 – When done properly, your abdomen should look flat from side to side. This is a sign that the transverse is firing! 

 

Issues to watch for: 

DOMING: If your belly looks like it is doming (highest in the middle and lower on the sides) this is a sign that you aren’t maintaining transverse engagement (and an indication that you are putting pressure on your linea alba, the connective tissue at the center of the core).

Stop doing crunches until you have gotten the muscles strong enough to prevent doming.

 

PRESSURE IN PELVIC FLOOR: If you feel pressure or heaviness on your pelvic floor as you crunch (or immediately after), this is a sign that your pelvic floor engagement isn’t sufficient for the amount of pressure being placed on it during the crunch.

This could be because your pelvic floor is weak OR it could be that you have an overactive pelvic floor.

Either way, you’ll want to make sure you address this issue before continuing with crunches.

 

So, do you have to give up crunches forever? No! 

You just need to make sure that your body is ready for crunches and that you are doing them in a way that protects your postpartum body. 

Watch the FREE Yoga and Diastasis Masterclass!

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!

How To Ease Into Fitness After Birth

How To Ease Into Fitness After Birth

I often get questions about how to jump back into physical activity after having a baby. Postpartum women want to know: where do I start?

Today, I lay out when to start, what to avoid, and what postpartum milestones matter. Read below or watch the video!

First 6-8 Weeks Postpartum

First thing first: you just had a baby. In the first six weeks after giving birth, rest should be your #1 priority.

Beyond resting, my recommendations for this period are simple. Focus on:
  • Deep breathing to get your breath system working again. (I talk all about that here.)
  • Connecting to your deep core muscles, particularly your transverse abdominals.

From a seated position (or while nursing), first take a breath in and let the belly relax. Imagine a corset around your midsection. As you exhale, feel the corset draw in gently. This should create a feeling of length in the torso. This action helps bring your core muscles back on-line.

  • If you are desperate for some movement, walk!

Walking is low impact and increases circulation (which aids healing). In a perfect world, this walking would happen without holding or wearing your baby. For some of us (like me!) that isn’t possible with a newborn, and that’s ok! But, if you can manage it, walking freely helps bring your body back into proper alignment after pregnancy.

To recap: as you begin to heal in those first six weeks focus on: REST, breathing, core engagement, and walking (if you feel up for it!).

6-Weeks to 4-Months Postpartum

At this point, you’ve had six weeks to heal (and possibly a few weeks longer in the case of a C-section), and your care provider has cleared you for activity. We now enter the six-week to four-month period of recovery.
This period is critical to your post-baby core health. I encourage my students to approach this stage with care and caution.
Elevated hormone levels and muscular imbalances from pregnancy leave your body, particularly your core, in a compromised state.  And doing too much too soon can lead to postpartum issues like diastasis, prolapse, and hernias. This is especially true for a woman who was active during her pregnancy. Her arms and legs are strong. She feels like she can do everything. But her core is weak and cannot support that effort.       My recommendations for this period include:
  • Continue working on the basics.

Engage your deep core muscles regularly and get the breath down. Pregnancy alters the core muscles and breathing system and it takes time to get them working well again!

  • Add in activities that rebalance your post-baby musculature. 

Rebuild mobility in the mid-back. When your back and chest are tight, simple activities, like reaching or lifting, strain an already weak core.

Balance the muscles of the hips. By rebalancing the muscles of the hips, you create a healthier pelvic floor.

  • Keep activities low impact.

Walk, lift gentle weights, gentle yoga (but know not all poses are good for a post-baby body!).

In the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing some of my favorite yoga postures for this critical postpartum period. Stay tuned!

  • Avoid:

    • High-intensity impact activities. No running, burpees, HIIT, Crossfit. These activities put excessive demand and load on your core and it’s not ready for that yet!
    • Front-loading ab activities. Planks, crunches and all the ‘typical’ ab exercises will do more harm than good.
    • Excessive back bending postures and deep twist positions like you find in many yoga classes.
  Remember, this is a critical period for your body and recovery. You have the chance to create a solid foundation that will allow you to begin incorporating more intense activities in the near future. If you overexert yourself during this period you could end up weaker at six-months postpartum than you were at six-weeks.  

4-Months Postpartum and Beyond

Recommendations become less cut and dry after 4 months. Some who’ve spent the first 4 months building the foundation can safely introduce high-intensity activity at this point. Others would benefit from continuing with lower-intensity activities for longer. This would include anyone who falls into the following categories:

Breastfeeding:

Breastfeeding extends the critical period for your body. The hormones associated with breastfeeding create laxity in your ligaments. In other words, they make you loosey-goosey and create instability in your body. If you are an extended breastfeeder (like I was!) you should approach high-intensity activities with caution until you finish nursing or are down to 2 or 3 feedings a day. After that, the hormones shift and allow more stability in your ligaments.

Natural Flexibility:

If you tend to be a very flexible person, you are likely genetically predisposed to instability. You’re super flexible because your joints are looser. If this is the case for you, you also want to be more conservative in your post-baby movement. You would benefit from giving your body more time to rebuild core stability.

Family History of Postpartum Issues:

If you have a family history of things like hernias or prolapses it likely means you are genetically predisposed to these issues. Again, this is an indication that you may want to give your body more time to build a foundation of stability and strength before jumping into high-intensity activities.  

How to Begin Increasing Intensity of Your Exercise

You’re done nursing (or are down to 1-2 times a day), you’ve mastered deep breathing, and have a solid connection to your deep core muscles. Awesome! Let’s increase that intensity! Here’s how to do it in a mindful, core-safe way.

Start With Lower Intensity.

Your body has gone through a huge transition and you should not jump into any activity at your pre-pregnancy intensity. Start at 50% of your “usual” and see how it feels. If you feel back pain, hip pain, if you leak, or feel like your core isn’t supporting you, those are all signs that you are working beyond your ability.

Short Intervals Are Best.

If you’re getting back to running, don’t start by heading out and knocking out two miles. Instead, try five minutes and then check in. If you’re doing a yoga class, take a break every 5-10 minutes and see how everything is feeling. Again….Does your back hurt? Do your hips hurt? Did you leak any urine? Do you feel unsupported in your core? If you answer yes to any of those questions, your body hit its limit. You’ll want to move to even shorter intervals and spend more time building that foundation. If, after five minutes, you are feeling good and aren’t having any of those symptoms. Awesome! Next time, try 7 minutes and see how that goes. You want to build your intervals slowly.

Check In Frequently!

It’s likely there will be a point at which you will reach the limit of what your body can do in a strong, safe way. And once you hit that limit, stop! That’s your limit, but just for now. You build from there.  

Remember: Start back to your activity of choice with less intensity, shorter durations, and continual check-ins with yourself. The moment you see any signs of disfunction, back off or stop. From there, we continue to build! By respecting your body’s limits rather than pushing through them, you give your core the chance to rebuild it’s pre-baby strength.

Watch the FREE Yoga and Diastasis Masterclass!

12 Days of Core Strength

12 Days of Core Strength

12 days of core strength

I recently hosted 12 Days of Core Strength on the brb Yoga Facebook Page. (P.S. If you aren’t following me over there, you should! I go live regularly with new tips).

Each day is a super simple, super practical change you can make in your day-to-day life to improve your core strength. Find all 12 videos below.

Day 1: Blow While You Go

Day 2: Hip Hinge

Day 3: The Eavesdrop

Day 4: Rib Breathing

Day 5: 90/90 Breathing

Day 6: One Action At A Time

Day 7: Raise The Roof

Day 8: Standing and Sitting

Day 9: Touch That Stomach!

Day 10: Unclench Those Glutes

Day 11: Watch How You Stand!

Day 12: Let Go Of Perfection

Watch the FREE Yoga and Diastasis Masterclass!

How to “Fix” Your Body After Pregnancy

How to “Fix” Your Body After Pregnancy

A postpartum body has a lot going on.

A weak core and pelvic floor creates a whole host of compensations in other parts of the body…weak glutes, tight hips, and a tight back, to name a few. (If you haven’t already, you might want to check out last week’s post on exactly what happens in your body during pregnancy)

In the words of some of my students, it’s easy to feel like “Pregnancy trashed my body.”

And easy to feel overwhelmed at where to begin fixing the issues.

With the core? With the back? With the hips?

But I’m here with some good news.

The answer is pretty simple.

You start with your breathing.

Getting your breath working properly restores much needed muscular balance to your postpartum body. Restoring this balance is a HUGE first step in preventing (or healing) postpartum issues like abdominal separation (diastasis recti), leaking pee (incontinence,) and pelvic organ prolapse.

Let’s dive in (Plus, I’ve got a great free resource for you to help get your breath system working).

The Relationship Between the Breath and Core

Our breath system is extremely sophisticated and has a huge impact on our muscular balance.

The system includes our:

  • lungs
  • diaphragm
  • abdomen
  • And pelvic floor

How to “Fix” Your Body After Pregnancy

Take a look at that diaphragm! It’s huge! Not only does it span our entire chest but it attaches to the ribs and the spine.

When the breath is working properly, every inhale expands the ribs and drops the diaphragm down. When the diaphragm drops down, the belly expands and relaxes, and the pelvic floor expands and relaxes. The movement of the diaphragm and ribs also relaxes the mid-back muscles and the psoas (a hip flexor that attaches at the ribs!). Basically, every inhale allows a whole lot of tight muscles in the body to relax fully.

On an exhale, the diaphragm lifts up, the core naturally engages, and the pelvic floor engages and lifts. This natural action of breathing creates a healthy resting muscle tone in the core and the pelvic floor.

As you can see the core and the breath are DESIGNED to work together.

Healthy breathing = healthy core. Funky breathing = Really hard to have a healthy core.

Breathing in a Postpartum Body

But what happens in a postpartum body?

Well, to be blunt. For many women, pregnancy jacks up the breathing system.

Plain and simple, the diaphragm stops working effectively. Which means the core isn’t working effectively either.

This loss of diaphragm functioning can’t be helped. There is just no room for it to drop down into the body because the baby is taking up that space.

So you start compensating. You start using the lift of your shoulders to bring air in. This often results in the diaphragm pulling up into the body on an inhale RATHER than dropping down.

Basically the diaphragm completely switches directions! Which makes you lose all of the natural core strengthening of the breath.

Now in a perfect world, our bodies would magically switch back to good breathing after the baby is born. But, for some reason (that I haven’t figured out yet), this just doesn’t seem to happen.

Postpartum women, particularly those that struggle with core and pelvic floor weakness, tend to continue to breath in this funky way even after the baby is out.

Let me show you an example from one of my students.

How to “Fix” Your Body After Pregnancy

See that hollow space under her ribs. If her diaphragm were dropping down on an inhale, that space would fill up and inflate. But hers does the opposite. The space deflates and becomes almost like a vacuum! That signals to me that her diaphragm is lifting up on the inhale. And that her core isn’t receiving the benefits of the natural deep breathing system.

So the first thing to do after having a baby is to retrain the diaphragm to work effectively. The breath is the best place to start your healing.

Once the breath is functioning well, so many other things start falling into place!

How the Breath Fixes a Body After Pregnancy

Restoring the natural breath patterns brings the core and pelvic floor back online.

When the core starts working it allows the back and hip muscles to stop working so hard. (And remember that good inhale helps relax those muscles too).

Getting the breath working begins to rehabilitate the body by bringing proper balance to the muscles!!

So the answer to the question ‘where do I start?’ You start with the breath.

I know this is not always what women want to hear. They want to jump back into high intensity stuff. But if you skip over the breath piece and move into high intensity stuff before you’ve retrained the diaphragm you are building your house on a non-existent foundation.

If the breath isn’t working properly, the core isn’t working properly. And doing activities without core support is a recipe for disaster. It’s worth spending a few weeks on the breath so you can spend YEARS doing the other activities you love with a healthy core.

Start with the breath. Get the breath down. And then you can confidently move into all of these things that you love doing.

If you’d like to practice this, I’ve got a free breath training tutorial which will help you reset your breathing and get your diaphragm working again!

Free Breath Training!

Naturally engage your core and pelvic floor with breath.

Build core strength all day, every day.

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Why The 6-Week “All Clear For Exercise” Rule Hurts Postpartum Moms (a.k.a Treating Pregnancy As An Injury)

Why The 6-Week “All Clear For Exercise” Rule Hurts Postpartum Moms (a.k.a Treating Pregnancy As An Injury)

In so many ways, we send harmful and unrealistic messages to women who just had a baby.

When a new mom goes to her midwife or doctor for a six-week check-up, she often hears, “Go ahead. Go do everything you were doing before you were pregnant. You are good to go.”

This…is crazy.

Pregnancy is a massive change to the musculoskeletal system. We should treat pregnancy as an injury to the body and the postpartum period as a time of rehabilitation.

Let’s dive into this! You can watch my facebook live or read below.

What Happens with an Injury

Think about an ankle injury. If you sprain the outside of your ankle, the ankle loses stability and can’t work the way it normally does.

The body DOESN’T like instability.  Other areas start taking over to support and stabilize the injured area.  All sorts of compensations happen.

You stop putting weight on the outside of that foot. You shift more of the muscular work to the inside of your ankle. That creates a chain reaction up your entire body.

The knee, hip, shoulder and even neck work differently because of the ankle injury. Crazy, right?!

What Happens to Your Body During Pregnancy 

This isn’t a far cry from what happens during pregnancy.

Think about it: you’re growing a giant baby in your belly.

Even if you are active during pregnancy, the core muscles get weak. They cannot support the body in the way they did before you were pregnant.

Normally, the core stabilizes both the spine and the pelvis.

When the core isn’t working, those areas become unstable. And, remember, the body doesn’t like instability.

So some compensations happen to maintain stability in your body.

  • The paraspinal muscles in your back start working hard to make up for the work your core was doing (They get tight!).
  • The psoas, the main hip flexor, starts working overtime. This huge muscle is designed to move your legs. But when the core isn’t working, it will start working to stabilize the spine.  So your hip flexors get really tight!!
  • On the outer hip, a group of muscles called the TFL starts gripping to help keep your pelvis stable. So your outer hips are tight!!
  • The TFL is a bully to the glutes and make it hard for your glutes to fire. Overtime, your glutes get weak.

So not only is your core weak, but you have major compensations in your back, hips, and glutes!

If that isn’t reminiscent of an injury, I don’t know what is!

Typical Approach to an Injury

When someone injures an ankle we don’t say  “You injured your ankle a few weeks ago. Your muscles are working completely differently. But go ahead and go run that half marathon. Go ahead and do that HIIT workout that you were doing before you hurt yourself. You waited 6 weeks, right? That’s cool. You’re good.”

No.

We say “You sprained your ankle and let it rest and heal. NOW let’s rehabilitate it. Let’s balance out the muscles that were overworking to create stability. Let’s get the joint working properly again so that  you can run or do HIIT again, without injuring yourself.”

After rest, you rehabilitate, THEN you move back into higher demand activities.

Typical Approach to the Postpartum Period

This is not the approach taken in the postpartum period.

We tell postpartum woman “Rest for six weeks…and then go do everything you did before you were pregnant.”

That’s crazy!

Starting into activity before rehabilitation perpetuates the imbalances created during pregnancy.

Practicing yoga or running with a weak core makes your back and hips work even harder to stabilize your spine…Which strains them further.

You are asking an injured body to do things it isn’t ready to do.

A New Model for the Postpartum Period

Let’s treat pregnancy as an injury and rehabilitate the postpartum body.

Let’s tell women “Rest and recover for 6 weeks. Then let’s correct the imbalances created by nine to ten months of pregnancy. Let’s rebuild the weak muscles and teach those overworked, overactive muscles to chill out! THEN, let’s move on to all that higher intensity stuff.”

Bring the core back online. Rebuild strength in muscles that grew weak during pregnancy. And release tension that has built up in the hip flexors and back.

Once everything is working the way it’s meant to, you can get back to the activities you love.

Next week, I’ll be sharing where the heck you should begin this rehabilitation process. (Click here to read that post). 

 

Watch the FREE Yoga and Diastasis Masterclass!

To The New Mom Who’s Worried About Diastasis Recti

To The New Mom Who’s Worried About Diastasis Recti

My friend, Veronica, recently asked:

“Now that I’m 7 weeks postpartum I’m wondering how I would tell if I had Diastasis Recti. Do you have a blog post on how to tell?”

I’ve been meaning to write a “How to Test for DR” post forever, but this question got me thinking…

New moms are scared about DR. They don’t need another self-check tutorial (although I will show you how to do that below). They need a clearer message about DR.

Here’s my attempt at that.

Hey Mama,

Congratulations! Whether this is your first baby or you are an old pro, you are in the thick of it right now. You’re oh so tired, covered in body fluids, and filled to the brim with love for this tiny being.

You may also feel the itch to move your body again. After a month or two trapped under a newborn, you’re feeling stiff and a little weak. You know a good ‘ol endorphin rush would help you feel more like yourself.

But you’re also a little nervous about jumping back into activity. You’ve heard about this thing lately – diastasis recti or abdominal separation.

You don’t know much about it, but you know you don’t want it. And, you know that there are certain things that can make it worse.

Here’s what you need to know about Diastasis Recti:

What is Diastasis Recti?

Diastasis Recti is a separation of the abdominal muscles. It’s caused by the connective tissue at the front of the body stretching and thinning during pregnancy. This separation is necessary during pregnancy – that baby needs room to grow! It becomes problematic when that separation remains far into the postpartum period.

Why should you care?

The abdominal muscles impact your body’s function. Dysfunction in the abdominals results in:

  • back pain,
  • hip pain,
  • pelvic floor pain or incontinence (leaking when you sneeze or exert yourself),
  • and that ever present mom-pooch.

We’ve been told many of these symptoms are just a “regular” part of postpartum life. That is flat out wrong.

How do you know if you have it?

Here’s a quick self-test video for you.


I have it! Now what?

First, if you’re a few months postpartum, you likely WILL have it. That’s NORMAL. Your body spent almost 10 months making room for this new life. It takes more than a few weeks for your abdominals and connective tissue to return to normal. Second, you aren’t destined to have it forever. The months right after you’ve had your baby are a golden opportunity. You can either

  • Ignore it and deal with it, and it’s associated symptoms, for some time. Maybe even forever.

How to move forward:

  • Please DON’T jump back into high-intensity exercise. Asking your newly postpartum body to do intense stuff prevents your diastasis from healing. Your body is RECOVERING. Focus on healing and building your strength now, and you’ll be back to those exercises in no-time. If you try to skip your recovery, you may have to avoid those activities you love for a LONG time.
  • DON’T try to fix your core with crunches, planks, or traditional core exercises. These poses do not help and will cause more damage.
  • DO spend time connecting to your core EVERY DAY. Here’s a simple video that shows you how to safely and effectively engage your core. This exercise helps you find your Transverse Abdominis. This deep core muscle encourages your connective tissue to heal. It also acts like a corset for your body, providing support and stability. You can start doing this core engagement as soon as your baby is born.


  • DO focus on your alignment. I’ve written about this here. Poor alignment makes it hard to engage those deep core muscles and strains the weak connective tissue.
  • DO get lots of rest and eat good food.
  • DO find a reputable fitness program that specializes in postpartum core health. Find one that suits your preferred style of working out (If yoga is your jam, I’d love to have you join me in the Heal Your Core With Yoga program). You want a program that gives you exercises AND educates you about the root cause of diastasis (i.e. alignment). Long-lasting core-health comes from building strength AND changing body patterns.

NOTE: Your local stroller strides is NOT going to do this. You need a program that specializes in diastasis safe exercises (There aren’t a lot of us out there).

  • Finally, DO be patient, Mama. I know you’re eager to “bounce back” and feel normal again. You will. Give it time. You’ve spent almost 10 months growing a new life. It takes more than a few weeks for your body to recover from that amazing process.

Right now it’s easy to put yourself last, Mama. But, please, take some time to care for yourself now.  When that baby gets bigger, you’ll want to keep up with all her shenanigans. 

To Plank Or Not To Plank? That Is The Question

To Plank Or Not To Plank? That Is The Question

“When can I do plank again?”

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard this question…

I tell my clients to stop practicing certain yoga poses while strengthening their core and closing their diastasis-big backbends, deep twists, and traditional core strengtheners like crunches, to name a few. Usually, those recommendations are met with a nod… an easy acceptance.

When I Tell Them To Give Up Plank? Not so much.

What is it about plank? Is it that yoga teachers use it as THE core strengthener? Directing you to hold it for minutes at a time with the assumed promise of 6 pack abs. Or is it that many yoga practices cue this pose so often you feel like you’re giving up your entire practice?

Regardless of the reason, everybody wants to know: When can I start doing plank again???

 For once and all, let’s answer this question:

Key Consideration For A Healthy Plank Pose

The key to a healthy plank pose is engaging your transverse abdominis. Without those deep core muscles you risk creating more strain on your already weak abdominal wall.

Plain and simple: You should not do plank pose until you can FIND, and MAINTAIN, engagement of your transverse.

The 4 videos below will allow you to test your ability to find this engagement:

We’ll begin with a quick test to see how strong your transverse abdominis is:

Now let’s take it up a notch. Transverse engagement on your hands and knees (a plank preparation position) is more challenging.

You are working AGAINST gravity. You have to find the strength of your transverse, and pull the weight of your internal organs up with it. Test it out with this video. MAKE SURE YOU AREN’T TUCKING YOUR TAILBONE. That’s cheating!!

If you can’t find engagement in this position, go no further. WITHOUT transverse engagement, this position strains the core (the weight of the organs can be too much.) Build strength by practicing transverse engagement in seated or standing positions. FYI: practicing good alignment in yoga poses is a great way to do this.

If that felt easy, let’s move on.

Can you hold TA engagement in a modified plank with knees down?

If the answer is no, stay away from plank and work on getting stronger.

If the answer is yes, here we go.

Final test: transverse engagement in full plank position.

You already know what I’m going to say right?

If you can’t do this, focus on building strength.

If you can, you might be ready for plank again!**

**I wish it were as simple as this test alone but the body is never that simple! In addition to transverse engagement, you also want engagement of your pelvic floor in this pose. Here’s why: Plank pose increases pressure inside the abdomen. If you’ve got strong abdominal muscles but a weak pelvic floor, you will strain your pelvic floor. Over time, this could lead to things like incontinence and organ prolapse. You don’t want that. We’ll cover pelvic floor engagement in another post.

A final note: I love a good plank pose as much as the next yogi. But this pose is NOT A REQUIREMENT for a strong core. You could never do a plank pose again, and still have a strong, functional, healthy core that supports you in all the things you love doing. It’s time yogis start thinking outside the plank.

Watch the FREE Yoga and Diastasis Masterclass!

3 Little Known Tips To Heal Your Core With Yoga

3 Little Known Tips To Heal Your Core With Yoga

“Dia-what?”
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. 

 

3 Things I Wish I’d Known About Postpartum Yoga And Diastasis Recti

3 Things I Wish I’d Known About Postpartum Yoga And Diastasis Recti

I knew it in my heart before I knew it in my mind. Yoga is hurting me.

I was so excited to begin practicing again at 8 weeks postpartum. I’d spent 10 months modifying for pregnancy, and 8 weeks healing from my daughter’s beautiful, painful birth. The idea of moving again thrilled me.

And move I did. Nothing crazy. My body was still mending. A simple, straightforward flow of basic yoga postures. Sun salutations to get the blood moving. Twists to move energy through my spine. Gentle backbends to open up my heart which, despite being so full of love for my daughter, was completely closed off from the endless hours of nursing.

Little did I know, these “simple” poses were hurting more than healing.

After the first session, it was easy to dismiss the physical signs that something was wrong. The twinge in my low back. The feeling that things were even more discombobulated “down there” than when I started.

I’d just had a baby, after all. I didn’t expect it to feel perfect.  

But I continued to dismiss those signs for months. I couldn’t believe that my beloved yoga practice could hurt me. For someone who’s spent much of her life listening to her body on a yoga mat, I was surprisingly good at ignoring my body’s whispers.  

But just like a toddler you ignore, those whispers eventually became a yell.

It hit me at 6 months postpartum. Half a year after I’d delivered my baby, I was suffering more than I had in the weeks after delivery.  

  • My pelvic floor was still injured and, often, very uncomfortable.
  • My back hurt around the clock, not just after a yoga practice.
  • I felt like a limp noodle and found myself slumping nonstop. I had no support when sitting or standing.  

 

I started consuming everything I could about the postpartum body.

The lightbulb went off when I learned about diastasis recti.

Diastasis recti is a separation of the abdominal muscles, caused by a stretching and thinning of the connective tissue during pregnancy.

It’s associated with pelvic floor dysfunction, back pain, incontinence, and even hip issues.

Almost all pregnant women get a diastasis. For a lucky few, the separation closes soon after birth. For many others, the separation remains, and they have an ongoing diastasis.

A quick self-check (thanks, YouTube!) confirmed it-I had one. The more I learned, the more I realized my “simple” yoga postures were preventing my separation from healing. And possibly making it worse.

So I began the most important yoga education of my life. I could fill a book with what I’ve learned about this topic, but I’ll start with the 3 things I wish I’d known when I started my postpartum yoga practice.

The 3 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Started A Postpartum Yoga Practice

 

1. When you are cleared for exercise at 6 weeks, you should be very intentional about the exercises you choose.

Odds are, you still have an abdominal separation. Jumping into crunches, planks, and trying to “get your body back” is a surefire way to make a diastasis worse. It takes 10 months for your abdominals to separate, it takes way more than 6 weeks for them to heal.

 

2.You should avoid certain yoga poses and every day movements if you have a diastasis.

They strain your weak core and prevent healing. Can you still have a full, well-rounded, practice? ABSOLUTELY. Can you eventually return to those yoga poses? YES. Once your core heals.

 

3. All yogic breathing is not created equally.

Taking breath deep into your belly contributes to diastasis. Other breathing methods can help close a separation.

When my second child was born, my healing was completely different. I had zero back pain, almost no pelvic floor issues, and never ever felt like a limp noodle. Why? Because when I started my yoga practice at 6 weeks postpartum, I knew how to create stability, heal my pelvic floor, and aid my diastasis in closing.  

This time, when I stepped onto my mat, I knew it in my heart and mind. Yoga is healing me.

Wondering if you have a diastasis? Try this self-test.


If you’re looking for more information on how to use yoga to help heal your diastasis, join me in my free online yoga and diastasis masterclass.

Click below to learn more and save your spot.