After I had my daughter Eden, I didn't realize how important breathing was for postpartum recovery...I wish I had learned this info while I was pregnant. I had a really tough recovery and wasn't prepared for the toll delivery took on my body. I really struggled to get back into exercise postpartum because I had undiagnosed diastasis recti AND and an undiagnosed prolapse. Luckily due to ankle injuries I had been told no jumping so I didn't make my prolapse worse. But it wasn't until wayyyy into my postpartum recovery that I leaned all this information. I struggled mentally with not being able to perform as well as I could before.
All this together meant I had to figure out what was going to work for me. I did so much research into the human body postpartum and which exercises would help or hinder recovery. I changed my exercise routines and started to heal my diastasis. I was still so scared about the prolapse I didn't really know what to do (so I set that aside for a while).
It wasn't until 18 month postpartum that I discovered this was what I really wanted to help women with. There Is so little help given from your family doctors/OBGYNs, especially if you don't know the questions to ask or they rush you out of the office after a check up. I had been following the teachings of Bellies Inc and decided to take their course to become certified in core rehabilitation.
The foundation for everything in pregnancy and postpartum exercise is diaphragmatic breathing (or as Bellies Inc coined it, the Core Breath). It connects the four core muscles together to create strength behind every exercise. The four core muscles being the transverse abdominus, multifidus, diaphragm and the pelvic floor. When these muscles are out of sync, along with other factors, they can create whats known as 'core dysfunction'
- urinary incontinence
- pelvic organ prolapse
- back pain
- pelvic girdle pain
- diastasis recti
However, you can re-train your body into functioning correctly. The first step is with your breath. You can start this as soon as possible, pregnant, postpartum, trying to get pregnant, the sooner the better. Watch the video for a demonstration of belly breathing/diaphragmatic breathing and start practicing NOW!!
I cannot stress how important breathing is for effective core function so PLEASE if you are only going to change one thing in your exercise routine...start with this! start with 10 breaths per day and slowly increase as you get the hang of it.
Sit on a stability ball, chair or lay on your back, with a slight arch in your back (finding neutral spine), two feet are on the floor (knees bent if lying down) and look straight ahead. Place one hand on your belly and the other on the side of your ribcage.
Take a deep breath in. Focus on filling the space in your ribcage without your chest rising (imagine your ribcage as an umbrella), fill your belly and in vision your pelvic floor soften and relax. Feel as your ribs and belly expand as you take in air. Breath like this a few times so you can get use to filling your belly and ribcage with air before moving on to the next step. Your belly and ribs should be moving in unison with 70% of the air going into your ribcage.
As you breathe out, feel your ribs and belly move in (umbrella closing), exhale through pursed lips. Take a few breaths like this as you begin to understand how your body is moving then add in the pelvic floor contraction. As you exhale, feel as your pelvic floor lifts away from the ball or chair and draws in. Use nice slow breaths, focus on slowing the breath down and engaging the muscles as you breathe out. Remember as you inhale, to soften the pelvic floor.
Pelvic Floor Cues
Picking up a blueberry/jelly bean
Prevent a tampon from falling out
Imagine your pelvic floor as a jellyfish
Sipping a milkshake through your vagina
Only after you have perfected the first three steps, should you progress to this step.
As you close your umbrella and pick up your blueberries, exhale through pursed lips. You should feel a band of tightness across your lower abdominals. This band of tightness is your transverse abdominis contracting and completes the optimal “core” contraction. You can feel the activation by placing your fingers on the inside of your hip bones. NOTE: this is a gentle contraction.
You can also use these visualizations for your TVA:
• Imagine closing your two front hip bones together
• Imagine a guy wire between your two hip bones and as you exhale, create tension in the wire.
The great thing about core/diaphragmatic breathing is you can start it as soon as you feel comfortable post delivery. If you don't want to include the pelvic floor right away that is FINE you may still be tender. If that is the case just focus on breathing into your belly and ribcage and fully relaxing your pelvic floor. Listen to your body, don't rush and don't push too hard, you have just given birth!
HAPPY BREATHING MAMAS