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!