Yoga and Diastasis Recti: What Postpartum Moms Need To Know

There’s no denying It; Yoga can be a VERY beneficial form of exercise for you.  It helps to relieve depression (huge for postpartum moms), create peace and calm, and reset your stress hormones. The right schools of Yoga can even raise your heart rate and work up an intense sweat.

One of the times when Yoga can be a particularly positive practice is when babies are small. It builds strength gently, relieves stress and tension, and gives you a reason to get some alone time. But what if you have Diastasis Recti (a separating of the abdominal muscles) Can you still do Yoga?

The answer is yes, however, there are some postures and movements to avoid, as they place too much pressure on an already vulnerable abdominal wall and pelvic floor during the early postpartum period, and can make your Diastasis Recti worse.  I hear a lot from new moms that one of the many things they will try and do to get back into exercise is some Yoga. Which, like I said, can be very beneficial for new moms, but let’s talk about some of the poses you will want to avoid until your Diastasis has healed:

  • Avoid poses that require you to twist open or stretch within a twist like Prayer Twist, Chair Twist, Half Moon, or Triangle pose.
  • Avoid poses in which you are stretching out the front of the body like Upward Facing Dog, Cow, Bow, Camel, or Wheel Pose and any back other bends.
  • Poses in a plank position or any front-loaded (belly hanging towards the floor) poses like Chaturanga Dandasana should be avoided until you are able to hold sufficient tension in the inner core muscles (tranverse abdominis, multifidus, diaphragm, and pelvic floor) while holding the pose.
  • Avoid any types of belly breathing techniques in which you are pulling air in to expand the belly out in front. This creates too much intra-abdominal pressure. Instead, focus on using a diaphragmatic breathing technique in which you inhale deeply into the rib cage expanding it out to the sides and back. Think opening up your rib cage like an umbrella with each breathe while the belly rises only softly as your inhale. On the exhale, you will pick up for pelvic floor muscles (think Kegel) and simultaneously exhale all of the air out through pursed lips to contract the transverse abdominis.

So, how do you repair your core and get back to the yoga practice you love?

First things first -you can actually begin repairing your core and pelvic floor shortly after the delivery of your baby (barring no complications like tearing, episiotomies etc.) with a gentle restorative program like Restore My Core. If you have had a c-section or any kind of stitches needed after delivery, it is best to hold off until the stitches have disappeared or have been removed and the incision area is healing well. It’s best to start an exercise program that will heal and restore the core and pelvic floor while you EASE back into your Yoga practice. Restoring the function and strength of your abs and pelvic floor should absolutely be one of the first steps, if not THE first step towards getting back into exercise postpartum.  As I tell all of my clients, it’s important to listen to your body. You’ve just been through a very big change! If something doesn’t feel right, it isn’t.

As you go through your Yoga practice, pay attention to your body. Avoid the sorts of twists, planks, and front stretches that I mentioned earlier. If you’re practicing Yoga at a studio, get to class early, and talk to the instructor about how to proceed, or call ahead to see if the studio has an instructor that specializes in prenatal and postnatal Yoga. These instructors have become very common in recent years, as Diastasis gets more attention.

Most of all -be patient. You didn’t grow a baby and stretch out your abs and your pelvic floor in a single day, and you won’t fix it overnight either. Like many exercise situations, rushing your recovery will make the situation much worse. This is a time to take care of yourself. If you’d like, think of it as a more gentle transition into motherhood than most women get during pregnancy and the early days of caring for a newborn.

Too often, women suffer with Diastasis Recti for years, wearing protection to keep their urine leaks from showing on their clothes, tolerating pain during sex, and convincing themselves that the weird feelings “down there” are just part of the price we pay for being women and bearing children.

As women and as mothers, we deserve better than being ashamed of the stress and difficulty that childbearing puts on our bodies. Most women find an improvement to their Diastasis Recti just from proper exercise and physical therapy. You can be one of them.

If you’re pregnant, and looking to make sure that your recovery goes as smoothly as possible, a brand new mom trying to figure out why her stomach pooch won’t flatten out, or a mom of many years who is finally trying to get a handle on what happened to her, there is hope for you! Go here to learn more about the Restore My Core programs I developed for prenatal and postnatal mamas.

Remember…in order to feel your best as a new mom…we need to get your foundation (core + pelvic floor) feeling strong and functioning well again.  Get back to the exercises and workouts you enjoy without any worry of pain, injury, and discomfort because you took the time to heal your core!

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