On Wednesday I spoke about some of the modifications you can make to accommodate your growing belly, and mentioned foregoing certain yoga poses to help prevent diastasis recti prevention.
Experts say that you don’t develop DR as a result of pregnancy. The loads on your tissues were present before you began your nine-month journey. This means that whatever aches and pains or blind spots you were dealing with before pregnancy, now have a greater chance of being exposed and perhaps even exacerbated as the load you must carry increase week after week.
Here are my top tips to help avoid an abdominal separation:
- Stand up for yourself! Do you flare your ribs? See part one of Yoga Tune Up® for Mammahood to learn how to achieve impeccable posture and avoid tugging unnecessarily on your anterior tissues, from your rectus abdominus to your psoas.
- Breathe better – we take approximately 20,000 breaths a day; how many of those do you take consciously? If you’re a belly breather it’s time to re-organize your breathing to include more than diaphragm. Practice the Complete Yogic Breath – first breathing into the belly, then the ribcage – to optimize intra-abdominal pressure (and thus limit the stress over the two sides of your midline) and to give the muscles of your upper back, chest and ribcage (some of which are also breathing muscles) a much needed stretch.
- Bedside manners – Be mindful when getting in and out of bed: a good habit to adopt is first coming down or up onto your left side first, so you don’t strain your anterior abdominal wall unnecessarily.
- Got the bathroom blues? Are you constipated and straining every time you go? If you are, consider getting a Squatty Potty – or using books or yoga blocks – to elevate the feet and put your colon in a more optimal position to evacuate waste.
- Skip exercises that activate your rectus abdominis or require you to fight against gravity, including upper abdominal curls, static planks, and movement that create long levers with your arms and legs. I still love to do more dynamic movements such as Sidewinder (and it’s great to relieve my lower back and give me a good side stretch). It’s still a good idea to work your core, just pick your movements wisely. A smart start is to focus on your Transverse Abdominis. You can do this just by breathing. On an inhale, breathe into your belly, your ribcage (trying to expand the ribs 360 degrees) and on the exhale, get rid of the bubble of air you’ve created by wrapping yourself from the back to the front. Repeat several times. And then let it go – relax your abdomen completely and go about your day without straining to keep your belly in. (See more about the Contract/Relax breath here)
Watch this space for my last installment of Yoga Tune Up® for Mammahood, where I’ll address pelvic floor health, and enjoy a heavenly hip sequence.
Since I’ve never been pregnant, there’s a lot I don’t know how about how it can (and can’t) impact the body. I love learning tips and tricks like these so I’m better prepared to provide options for my pregnant students.
I always though diastasis recti was actually the result of the pregnancy… but it makes much more sense that it is rather pains or blind spots that were there before the pregnancy! One more reason to explore our body and find our blind spots! Thank you for sharing this information, I always love to see preventive approach.
Currently 22 weeks pregnant with a slight DR from 1st pregnancy. During sidewinder I found myself having to really focus on my breath to ensure I was correctly completing the pose. With this pose I was reminded of Katy Bowmans floor and wall crescent movements she referenced in her DR book.
These simple tips should be taught to all pregnant women. It can so make a difference on the body in post-natal too.
Thank you for the informative article! I am now almost 6 months pregnant and have had a lot of rib pain from being petite. The reminders around breath have really helped! Rolling out and practicing the breathing feels like a new body… So much more space! I also have to be careful getting out of bed because I often forget I’m pregnant initially and try to spring right up! After feeling that it’s not so easy, I end up doing a little side roll to get up the rest of the way ?.
I love this preventative approach to avoiding DR. I’m always conscious of the condition in my postpartum clients, but have been neglectful in considering it from a preventative perspective. Very cool stuff. Also -Cant wait to introduce Sidewinder to my pregnant clients!
As I have learned in pregnancy number 1 (and DR number 1): pregnancy exacerbates any preexisting condition we might have! Poor alignment and poor breathing is only going to get worse if you carry 30 pounds of weight all of a sudden and is the trigger for a DR.
I am pregnant now and well aware of all of the things you mentioned before. It is really hard for me to correct my rib thrusting but I am working hard on it. I am so curious to see what my linea alba will look after baby number2!
I have a male client in his 60’s that have DR, I’m pretty sure that it is from tight shoulders. I find that I flare my ribs up as well due to tight shoulders. I try to “fix” my posture by lifting my chest. I would love to hear what your favorite shoulder stretches are for improving shoulder flexibility and also some more core exercises that you would recommend that would not negatively affect DR. Thank you
I plan skip exercises that activate my rectus abdominis or require me to fight against gravity, such as upper abdominal curls or static planks, and focus instead on my transverse abdominis. Thank you for sharing!
Who knew the way we breath is so important?! There is so much I know how about the diaphragm now that I wish I knew before. Thanks for sharing.
I partially agree with the idea “DR is not a result of pregnancy”. The major risk factor for developing DR is pregnancy. I do agree with that for my clients leaving with an healthy core (rectus abdominis, traverses, obliques, pyramidalis, pelvic floor muscles), the tendency will be to not develop DR, and actually suffer less for “common pregnancy incomforts”. But, in our societies where, obsession of “tight”(restless) pelvic floor is trendy, core can be 100% efficient.
Picture a big ballon in a cage, with tissue bars… if i push this balloon against the bars with an increased pressure, the strings, in order to stay intact, if the maximum stretch is reached, will slide on the side of the ballon. now replace uterus by ballon and strings by rectus abdomnis… lack of movements, hydration, will definitely aggravate this phenomenon at the linea alba.
I do not advise my pregnant clients to avoid core work, but only isolated rectus abdominis work. Plank does not fall in that category. i would only advise to probably decrease it due to uterine weight in late 3d trimester.
And sidewinder, even if it is a great exercise, most of pregnant being would not feel comfortable doing it… imagine the pressure on vena cava and lungs in 3d trimester…
one thing for sure, i always recommend to stop crushes by the 2d trimester, ask global core engagement, offer to use 1 therapy ball on the pelvic floor, and plow the rectus abdominis medially, with presence of DR or not (i love prevention!)
Even if we are not pregnant, those reminders you have are cogent no matter what. I had never heard of this until a few years ago and now have met so many that suffer from this. If you haven’t read Katy Bowman’s book of the same name, i can recommend it.
Great article! I hear often about how pregnancy causes DR, and I’m glad to learn that this is not the case.
These are great cues when diastasis recti is present in non-pregnant women as well, such as in persons with larger waist-to-hip ratios and more abdominal fat. I’ve found that in clients with diastasis recti, the connection with the TVA is absolutely loss. I’ve found that this affects abdominal contraction when coughing which can mean trouble when a person is choking. I love using the SmartSpine by Marie Jose Blom to encourage breathing into the posterior body and providing that much needed movement in this area as mentioned in the article.
Nicely written Emilie! Wish I have read that 11 years ago.
Love the Squatty Potty. Check out the commercial if you haven’t seen it.
Great article! It’s so important for women to realize that pregnancy does not “cause” diastasis recti; it’s abdominal pressure that leads to this issue (which pregnancy can contribute to). There are several ways in which we move, breathe, and live prior to pregnancy that also affect abdominal pressure.
I didn’t realize that most people are belly breathers. I am under the impression that the majority of people in our culture are rely on the accessory muscles of the chest and neck to breathe, which can also negatively affect abdominal pressure. Thanks so much for this info!
I did not realize that planks are not a good idea for pregnant woman. Is table top also contraindicated then? I assume so.
I love the sidewinder pose as well. It feels great, and it’s fun to do 🙂
As a prenatal yoga instructor, I always focus on avoiding poses that could exacerbate diastasis recti but was never aware that this is something that has roots in pre-pregnancy. It makes a lot of sense and helps me to feel a little more relaxed in my role as a teacher. It is hard as a teacher when a lot of the prenatal yoga population that I work with is completely new to yoga and yogic breathing. I have never used contract relax breathing and am very excited to have this as another foundational tool as well as a way to help women with any lower back pain. I work in a community where I have heard of a handful of second/third trimester yogis (or long-time yoga teachers) still practicing wheel or other deep backbends. This thought and image makes me cringe. How do you feel about this? Are some yoga bodies okay to do this successfully being already conditioned for that shape?
I must say that, despite the funny viral ad, squatty potty really works! I just wished I discovered it sooner. My son sent the youtube clip just for laughs, unbeknownst that mommy suffers from what Preparation H says to relieve, and I went ahead and ordered two, one for each bathroom. That chronic condition has dramatically improved! And my kids are teenagers now. I wished I had one of those when I was pregnant!
And for the diactasis recti, I truly believe that having had a toned core and 6 pack abs thanks to several physical activities and yoga (17 years ago!) ward it off. I remember looking at my mom’s belly (full of stretchmarks, a bit saggy, and yes, with that gap in the middle) and promising myself that I’ll do everything in my power to keep a sexy middle after childbearing. That, and emu oil for skin elasticity: similar DNA, completely different results!
Great ideas for avoiding diastastis recti – and as someone who had this become a significant issue after two of my pregnancies, I can say it is much less work to prevent than repair!
This post is a reminder to get back to basics with breath and posture. Pregnancy has been a humbling experience and my body has been very clear about taking it easy. These are great tangible and not to be forgotten tips that I will focus on as I move towards my third trimester. I also got a squatty potty a few months ago and can’t believe it took me this long. Even my husband is a fan! Thanks for your post.
These suggestions really shift the focus to stability and mindful breathing. And if done before baby is on board will be much easier to maintain!