Postpartum Practice for Diastasis Recti

DETAIL + DEPTH | A series showing exercises and basic asana modifications for Diastasis Recti.

 

Diastasis recti is the vertical splitting of the rectus abdominus muscle, the muscle that produces the iconic "washboard abs" or "six pack, along its center line. To some degree, it occurs in all women during pregnancy, and can be measured using finger widths. At the end of pregnancy, my diastasis was three finger widths. With the focused work shown in this series, it is now one finger width.

Diastasis recti is a normal function of pregnancy that occurs in order to accommodate the uterus and growing baby, the placenta, and the repositioning of the abdominal organs. Oftentimes it appears in tandem with pubic symphysis diastasis (or SPD, symphysis pubis dysfunction), a separation of the pubic symphysis joint at the anterior pelvis. For some women, the abdominal splitting is relatively minor and does not cause pain or dysfunction, and naturally rejoins after pregnancy. For others, the separation of this superficial abdominal muscle can be uncomfortable or painful and requires focused attention to heal.

The key is to draw the separated abdominal muscles together by first learning to identify and engage the deepest abdominal muscles, the transverse abdominis. This will then allow the superficial "top" muscles of the rectus abdominis to recover in a more functional manner.

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1. To begin, lie on the back with the knees bent and feet at a wall. Place a block between the legs. Elongate the low back without losing its curve and flattening it to the ground. Press the palms into the thighs and straighten the arms. Keeping only the heels on the wall, engage the shin muscle (anterior tibialis) by pulling the toes up toward the knees. Squeeze the block, push the hands into the thighs, and feel as if you can pull the thigh muscles down into the belly. If done correctly, the low back will not further lift away from the floor, nor will the ribs push up toward the ceiling. This can be as light or strong of an action as beneficial.

 

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2. Bring the hands along the side of the body, in cactus/goal post arms, or up overhead (ranked from easiest to most difficult). Keeping the heels against the wall, straighten the legs. Squeeze the block, engage the deep abdominal muscles, and breathe.

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3. For more of a challenge, do this same exercise with the feet off the wall and arms overhead. If there is a bulging of the abdomen, particularly at the site of the diastasis (it can occur at the navel, below or above the navel, or all along the central axis), then this could worsen the separation. It is essential to only increase the load if you are able to safely and effectively do exercises 1 and 2.

 

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4. Once you are able to locate and engage the transverse abdominis muscles, add a twist to the pose to work on the oblique muscles. Squeeze the block and imagine lifting the lower leg up into the upper leg. Draw the navel down and turn the chest. Stay and breathe, then switch sides. Rest as needed.