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!

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!

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!

How Becoming A Mom Made Me A Better Yogi

How Becoming A Mom Made Me A Better Yogi

Like most pregnant women, I knew my life would change when I became a mother. That was a given.

What wasn’t a given was how much having a baby would change my yoga practice.

Here are the 5 ways, becoming a mom made me a better yogi.

I Learned Self-Acceptance

Before I became a mom, I was used to being “good” at things, including yoga.

Sure, I encouraged my students to “accept themselves” and “enjoy the journey.” But, if I’m being honest, I didn’t often put myself in a position where my own skills were challenged. I rarely stepped out of my comfort zone.

Becoming a mom changed that.

Between the endless diaper changes and nursing sessions, I realized that it’s impossible to be “good” at being a new mom.

There was so much to learn, so much to do, and so little sleep, I couldn’t keep up. I quickly realized that pushing myself to meet an unattainable ideal, would drive me into the ground.

I had to start walking the walk.

Slowly, I learned to accept myself in all my messiness. I gave up the idea of perfection and embraced being present to the beautiful chaos of motherhood. 

That translated into my postpartum yoga practice. My postpartum body was tired. The poses I was once so “good” at were often hard. I learned to let go of being “good” and enjoyed the experience, accepting myself where I was.

I Learned the Value of Time

Non-parents say they are busy. I said it often before having kids.

But there’s a certain urgency that only parents seem to grasp. Before becoming a mom, my yoga practices were at least 60 minutes and often 90 (I can’t even fathom that now). For the most part, the day had enough hours.

After becoming a mom, I learned how to do everything in less time. From cleaning the kitchen, to building my business, to my beloved yoga, I trimmed everything down.

I learned the fine art of squeezing in what I needed to do between naps and snuggles. I condensed my luxurious yoga practice into an efficient 20-to-30 minutes. It took some time to figure out what to include and what to let go of, but I stuck with it.

Because a 20-minute practice is better than a 60-minute practice that NEVER happens.

I Learned What Attention Was

In yoga, there’s a term – Drishti, which translates to focused gaze. I had been practicing it for years. Like most yogis, I thought I had it down. I was wrong.

I was wrong.

Only after I had my daughter did I feel the true power of Drishti. Infants are programmed to find their mother’s eyes. As any parent can tell you, locking eyes with your new baby is one of the most powerful, emotional feelings.

When I gazed into my daughter’s eyes, and she stared back into mine, I finally understood the true power of Drishti. The rest of the world melted away. All I experienced was that moment with her.

That moment created a new sense of focus in my yoga practice. If I’m not focusing, I’m aware of it now, and I can reach for Drishti.

I Learned That Change Was Constant

Babies are wonderful, but they aren’t exactly compatible with a routine. As soon as I figured out my daughter’s patterns, they changed.

She forced me to go with the flow. To observe and assess, before acting. 

I found my practice changing on an almost daily basis too. As my body recovered from pregnancy and childbirth, it needed different poses. As my babies grew bigger and my arms grew stronger (but more tired), as I spent hours nursing little ones, I showed up to my mat each day with a different body.

Instead of forcing my body into a practice, I arrived on my mat and observed what I needed that day. That listening allowed my practice to evolve with the needs of my body.

I Learned the Value of Rest

Before kids, I spent most of my yoga time in strong, powerful flows. After the trials of pregnancy and childbirth, those practices weren’t cutting it.

My body craved nurturing…more restful, restorative practices became my go-to. And the more time I spent up at night with my newborn, the more I saw the value of resting.

A few minutes to stretch and rest on a mat? Yes, please. The best news was that there was no sweat necessary. I didn’t have to worry about squeezing in a shower on top of it all.

Lessons From Motherhood

I’ve learned more about myself in the past 5 years of motherhood than I had in the 30 years before. Each new stage of parenting brings new realizations and joys. And in the same way, my yoga practice continues to evolve with it.

I can’t wait to see what other lessons I learn about myself, and yoga, as I continue this wild ride of motherhood.

 

Watch the FREE Yoga and Diastasis Masterclass!

5 Tips For Doing Yoga With Kids

5 Tips For Doing Yoga With Kids

Tips For Doing Yoga With Kids

“Mama, can we go do some yoga?”

This little phrase is now a regular utterance at my house. But that wasn’t always the case. There was a time when I couldn’t get my love of yoga to rub off on my kids – no matter how much I requested or pushed.

It made no sense to me. How could they not love this practice that I found so fun? How could they see me practicing yoga ALL THE TIME, and not want to join in?

And then one day, I watched my children playing outside. As they moved from one shape to the next, all without premeditation or consideration, it hit me:

Kids don’t need to practice yoga. Their entire day is yoga.

Movement and mindfulness are a child’s normal way of being. For adults, not so much. At some point along the way, we lose our connection to self and the present moment. We have to “practice” finding it on our yoga mats.

Now, instead of inviting my children into my yoga practice, I step into theirs.

I don’t set yoga apart as a special, separate part of the day. I roll out a mat while we are playing and start moving. I let go of expectations and let them join as they like and leave as they like.

The result? They love yoga. They get excited when I roll out my mat because I’m going to be on the floor, connecting with them. Don’t believe me?

 

For those of you that would like to invite yoga into your days, here are 5 tips for doing yoga with kids.

 

1. Connection over Perfection.

Don’t waste a single moment correcting your child’s form or trying to teach them the right way to do a pose. This is your chance to have fun and foster a love of movement and yoga in your child. Don’t let the notion of “right” and “wrong” stand in the way of connection.

2. Keep it short!

Things go downhill after 10 minutes or so. If you hope to get your own full yoga practice in, think again.

3. Play With Advanced Poses.

Children’s bodies are incredibly strong and flexible. My daughter can pop up into a headstand and throw herself into a wheel pose without thinking. And she thinks they are FUN, not SCARY. Play with these poses with your child. She’ll be more engaged in the experience. You’ll learn to approach them with more levity.

4. Be Flexible.

There will be days when your kid is SO NOT INTO yoga. That’s ok. Cut it short if it isn’t working. End on a positive note (like a cuddly savasana together).

5. Practice Breath.

Take a few deep breaths together at some point in the practice. You’ll give your child a tool they can come back to again and again when they need to relax and manage stress.
What are you waiting for? Go roll out that mat!

Watch the FREE Yoga and Diastasis Masterclass!

A Simple Three Step Process To Increase Motivation

A Simple Three Step Process To Increase Motivation

Increase Motivation And Do More Yoga.

When I ask busy moms about what keeps them from a consistent yoga practice, the #1 answer is always time. That’s why all the videos in the brb yoga library are less than 30 minutes long.

But there’s another answer I hear almost as often. One you might have said before too.
“I can’t seem to motivate myself to do yoga.”

This feeling makes perfect sense when you think about the reality of life with kids.

You want to do yoga. You really do. But when you get those few glorious moments of free time you want to do a lot of other things too.

You could:

  • Call back that friend you miss so much.
  • Drink a glass of wine on the porch.
  • Spend some time with your spouse.
  • Read that book you’ve wanted to read for ages.
  • Pluck your eyebrows and cut your toenails (Or am I the only one that finds these incredibly relaxing?).
  • Do yoga

See that? Yoga is on the bottom. That’s not surprising. You’ve got so many other things competing for your limited time.

 

Here’s a simple, 3-step process to increase motivation and move yoga up to the top of your list.

 

1. Define Your Why.

Consider WHY yoga is important to you.

  • How does it change the way you are as a parent? Partner? Person?
  • How does it impact your emotions?
  • How does it impact your body?

Work through these questions. Then decide which of your answers is most important for your life right now?

That’s your WHY. And that’s the reason you’ll make yoga a part of your life.

For example, my “why” for doing yoga is patience. Sure, I get a lot of other benefits from it, but the one benefit that I need on an almost daily basis is patience. One of my client’s “why” is comfort in her body. Yoga reduces her aches and pains and makes her feel better as she moves through her day. That’s what keeps her coming to her mat.

Your “why” will be unique to you.

 

2. Write it Down.

Put your “why” on paper. Make it your screensaver. Post it on the refrigerator. Just put it somewhere you’ll see it. Otherwise, it’s out of sight, out of mind.

 

3. Use Your “Why” To Help You Decide What to Do.

When those few moments of free time arrive, and all the options on your list call to you, take a look at your “why”. Often, just revisiting your deeper purpose will move yoga to the top of your list. Sometimes it won’t, and eyebrows and toenails will win. That’s cool too.

 

Try it today. And share yours! I’d love to know what motivates you to do yoga.

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