Let's face it, pregnancy, no matter how active you are, does a number on your core. Outside of general core weakness from the muscles being stretched out as baby grows, many folks also get some level of diastasis recti, a separation of the abdominal muscles that can contribute to additional weakness, pouching of the belly and bigger issues if left untreated. In the face of this it may feel like the best thing to do is to dive right into sit ups as soon as baby is born. Which is absolutely not the right answer. The best answer is doing core work, every day, in slow, incremental movements to help build core without doing any further damage. Here are four exercises you can do (once you've got clearance from your provider) to start rebuilding your core safely.
When we think about pregnancy we don't really think about having a core, we generally think about losing it, which is something that happens to a certain extent. But understanding what happens to you core during pregnancy can be very helpful in understanding how to avoid issues in the core during pregnancy (like diastasis recti) which can have an overall impact on the health of your core as your start to heal postpartum. Curious to find out what's happening?
Diastasis recti is something often talked about after pregnancy as we start to address the changes that have happened to the body during pregnancy and continue to happen postpartum. The thing is though, you can start addressing diastasis during your pregnancy and steps you take then can make a difference in the amount of abdominal separation that happen. First off, what is diastasis recti?
The most significant muscle stretching in the core happens along the rectus abdominus and impacts the connective tissue called the linea alba. The rectus abdominus muscle consists of two sets of muscle bellies that run parallel and are held together by a connective tissue called the linea alba which runs from the sternum to the pubic bone. As baby grows and the uterus expands, the muscle bellies can separate and the linea alba stretches thin which is what creates diastasis recti.
So, what to do?
Alright mamas, so we may all notice that as baby gets bigger and bigger we lose more and more of our abdominal support. It makes sense right? The abdominal muscles are stretching to make space for baby and can no longer support us in the same way the used to be able to. This means that finding other parts of our core for support becomes increasingly important in order to help support our backs during this time. This yoga practice for pregnancy is perfect to help teach you to engage your side waist (your obliques) and also your glutes to help give you core support and stability at this time. Give it a try!
Let's face it, whether you've had your baby vaginally or via c-section, your pelvic floor will need attention postpartum. The simple fact that baby has been growing inside your belly for 9 months and gradually adding weight, and, therefore more pressure, to the pelvic floor means that pelvic floor muscles will be weak postpartum. Then if you had a vaginal birth with extended pushing or other trauma to the pelvic floor there is even more work to be done. The best thing you can do is start early, and practice often (and see a PT who specializes in pelvic floor!). This practice, once you have gotten clearance from your provider to being exercise, is a great one to add to your daily routine. Best thing? It takes just a few minutes. Need some more quick postpartum practices to add to your routine? Check out our series of online yoga videos!
In our last blog post we talked about ways you could modify your yoga practice in the first trimester to help account for some of those common aches, pains and discomforts that arise. As we look to the 2nd trimester, many folks consider this to be the honeymoon period. And for many people it feels that way...especially if they have experience nausea, morning sickness and exhaustion in the 1st trimester. That doesn't mean, however that the 2nd trimester is without its own new range of fun experiences to be had in the body. Here are some of the most common 2nd trimester complaints and how to modify your yoga practice to adjust for them:
I've seen this article and info circulating in birth and pregnancy circles recently and so many folks commenting "oh I'm on day 2 and this is killing me" or "I could barely get past day 4". Have any of you done this? Tell me your experience, I'm honestly curious.
It appears this article was written in 2016 and so is probably just making a resurgence as of late due to someone finding it on Pinterest or Instagram. I gotta say, as a prenatal yoga teacher and someone who has been pregnant myself, I have a BIG problem with this challenge for many reasons.
Returning to yoga postpartum is very important to help address a lot of the aches and pains and healing the body experiences after your baby is born. It can also help address issues around sleep and some of the stress and anxiety that arises with being a new parent. However, “regular” yoga classes are not designed with the postpartum body in mind.
I recommend that postpartum, if you can find a postnatal yoga class or a mom and baby yoga class to support you, it is the very best thing that you can do for you and your new baby. Also, consider adding online postpartum yoga classes to your routine, these shorter practices can be easy to fit in when you can't make it to class. I highly encourage you to wait until you get the okay from your doctor or midwife before beginning any exercise postpartum whether it is yoga or otherwise. Here's what a postnatal yoga class can offer you that a regular class cannot.
In nearly every postnatal yoga class that I teach, mamas come to class and one of the first things they ask is how to get their abs back and how quickly they can get their pre-baby body back. In striving to make this happen, many mamas end up diving into intensive abdominal work postpartum that can actually end up doing more harm than good.
What we have to remember is that over the course of pregnancy our abdominal muscles are stretching and lengthening. We want this! We need to make room for the growing baby. As these muscles stretch and lengthen they lose some of their tone and they can also begin to separate. Postpartum, once the body is no longer housing the baby, these muscles need time to reintegrate and reconnect and begin working, slowly. Think of this, if you haven't been running for nine months, would you jump right in and run 10 miles in one day? In the same way, the abdominal muscles need to slowly be brought back into shape and tone with exercises that have a more subtle focus.
Walking out of yoga classes one evening, I overheard several of my Prenatal Yoga students talking to one another after class. One of the students said to the other:
“I was doing plank pose in a class at the gym and I noticed my belly muscles were becoming this cone like shape on either side of my belly. Do any of you notice that?” There were murmurs of “Oh yea” or “I’ve got some separation between my abdominals.”
Wisdom and insight with a dash of humor to help guide you on your journey through motherhood.