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.