A Little-Known Core Concern that Warrants Recognition
Most people would love to have a killer core—that is, a waistline to die for—but at what cost? Diastasis recti is a splitting of the fascia of the rectus abdominis down the linia alba, or midline, that separates it into left and right halves. The condition occurs primarily in infants and pregnant women, but can also be the result of obesity, particularly when excessive fat surrounds the abdomen. Diastasis recti can also be cause by certain abdominal exercises and heavy weightlifting— which is a common cause of the problem among men. In women, diastasis recti can occur during pregnancy, when the pressure of the uterus against the abdominal wall causes a widening and thinning of the midline tissue. However, women can live with diastasis recti for several years after pregnancy, especially if they do not perform the proper exercises to fix the issue or if they worsen the separation by exercising incorrectly. Having several consecutive pregnancies can prevent the uterus from returning to its normal size and interfere with the body’s healing.
A split that creates a gap wider than two-and-a-half fingers’ width may be considered a medical issue and should be dealt with immediately. Even at two fingers widths, sufferers may notice back pain, the sagging “mama belly” or a coning or V-shape at the line of the linia alba, where the abdominals should be connected. At any gap size, diastasis recti is a concern that can create issues if left unaddressed as the core muscles develop improperly. When something in our bodies is not working correctly, something else compensates, and that compensation eventually catches up with us.
What to Avoid Exercise classes and boot camps that are focused on weight loss and strength training usually do not provide students with an understanding of transversus abdominis and pelvic support, so it is important for anyone that suffers from diastasis, especially new mothers, to understand the problem and how to properly heal from it. Because pregnancy stretches and thins the abdominal walls rapidly, the muscles afterward are vulnerable to injury. Like a balloon that is inflated and deflated several times consecutively, the abs can become distorted and saggy unless the proper care is taken to heal them from being stretched thin.
The abdominal exercises known as crunches can create a pressure down the midline of the belly that can cause the split. The source of problematic weightlifting is incorrect form; either sucking in or pushing out the belly prevents building true transversus abdominis strength.
Women should avoid wearing a support girdle or other tummy-trimming undergarments unless the split is two or more fingers width apart. The girdle’s support prevents sufferers from working the core muscles, leading to an issue that is much worse than a simple tummy bulge.
How to Strengthen and Heal Learning proper pelvic floor exercises will give the core the support it needs and build the base from which to mend the issue. The pelvic floor is the bottom of the body; with strengthening, this foundation can lighten the load on the rectus abdominis and help remedy urinary incontinence.
Due to pregnancy, excessive abdominal weight or improper core work, many women that have diastasis recti also have lordosis, an exaggerated forward curvature of the lumbar and cervical regions of the spinal column. Intentionally bringing the spine into a neutral position helps retrain the muscles into their proper position.
Choose exercises that facilitate using the transversus abdominis properly, working in three dimensions, or planes of motion, rather than simply along one plane (for example, with crunches, the movement is just rounding forward). Learn core exercises that require work in the transverse (horizontal) plane, rather than in the sagittal (or vertical) plan, as traditional sit-ups do.
Practice breathwork that will encourage a co-contraction effect on the entire pelvic core, from the pelvic floor to the entire torso. When exhaling, instead of sucking in our pushing out, make a small deflation of the belly, but more distinctly, a firm contraction of the entire core to feel a bracing effect.
Finally, become educated and ask questions. Not all workouts are equal and unfortunately, not all instructors are aware of the effects of their workouts on all parts of the body.
Three Moves to Rehabilitate Diastasis Recti by Hope Zvara
Forearm Plank Twist
Come onto the forearms in a forearm plank position, actively pressing forearms into the floor, keeping head in line with the body parallel to the ground. From the natural waistline, twist your lower body to the left, rotating your pelvis and feet to point in the same direction onto the side of the left foot, so that the left hip points toward the ground and right side faces the ceiling. Lift your hips actively away from the floor to feel the oblique and transversus abdominis turn on. Remain here for five to 10 breaths. Pause in plank and take a short break, and then repeat the opposite side, twisting the lower body to the right. After completing both sides, decide which side needs more work and repeat that side a second time.
Mini-ball Extension with a Twist Sitting tall with a nine-inch, core-training mini-ball gently tucked behind your sacrum, sit tall on your sit bones and on an exhale using your transversus abdominis, press only your sacrum barely into the ball without rounding your spine. Inhale and extend your body back to make a 45-degree angle with the floor, watching not to arch the back and keeping a maintained focus on the linea alba. Keep the intention of exhaling and connecting both sides of the belly together. Place the fingers of one hand on one side of the rectus break and the thumb on the other. Upon exhaling, use the fingers and thumb to merge the split muscle. Do not extend too far back and remember to keep the pelvic floor active; a mini-ball or block can be placed between the inner thighs to assist. On the next inhale, take a gentle twist to the right and rotate only the torso, taking care to not move on the mini-ball, and with a strong exhale, focus on using your corset core, the area between the hips and the ribs, to rotate you back to center. Repeat each side five times and then work the weaker side again another five times.
Lying on the floor in a supine position, place a mini-ball underneath the sacrum with the pelvis in a neutral position. Exhale and actively contract the anal sphincter, vaginal passageway (for women) and urethra. Keeping this support, lift one leg up so that the shin is parallel to the ceiling, with the knee aligned over the hip. Keep steady and extend your opposite arm towards the lifted leg, palm to thigh. Now without moving the pelvis or spine, press leg and palm towards each other, creating resistance, for 10 to 20 seconds. Release the leg and arm and then repeat on the opposite side. Notice which side is weaker and repeat that side a second time. What you should notice is the entire core activating without you needing to do much of anything. This way to effectively use the core and support the spine is called bracing, or co-contracting.
Join Hope Zvara for a great 15 minute yoga session incorporating the principles of functionality in combination with light hand weights and cues to help you get the most out of your core! A great workout can really happen in just 15 minutes!
Join Hope Zvara for a great 45 min session dedicated to functional back care. Combining traditional yoga asanas with functional movement give you the perfect stretch and strengthen combination for a pain free lower back.
Join Hope for a 20 minute Yoga practice focusing on functional balance poses, stretch and strengthening moves to get ready for the day or tuned up for whatever is to come next. Hope feels it is vital that video give classroom like detailed instruction as to what and how you should be feeling in each pose. For teaches learn from her cues and details, students get more out of your practice than ever before. Namaste visit her website www.HopeZvara.com
Balance, Stretch, Yoga, Release, Functional, Poses, Asana
Core work made easy! Distinguish the difference between deep core muscles and large skeletal muscles, core work shouldn't have to feel like it's killing your nor like a crazy paced practice. Stability before mobility and from the inside out. Get detailed instruction for core work with the mini ball. Namaste
The joys of having a baby is more than anyone can ever describe, and as a mom of two, myself, I have found that unless you consciously choose to incorporate your little yogi into your practice, we often then choose not to practice at all. And for others the choice is to practice (exercise) without that little ball of joy nearby or incorporated into that very important part of your life. Yoga is a huge part of my life and my family’s life, my son Harper (now four), and my daughter Meredith (now 2) were from day one my little yogi buddies and walking buddies, they did (and still do) everything I do. Because to me, my mindset was my kids were going to be a part of my life, a part of my practice and a part of my studio, I wanted them to know no different, just like some want their kids to learn a certain prayer or family tradition, I wanted my kids to learn to live a holistic-yogic lifestyle from early on.
Like many exercise to me is important, but a mindful practice where it is a part of your lifestyle is even more important. Here are some examples: We all go for a walk (my two dogs and two kids) and we talk about why fresh air is important and how Mother Earth loves that we enjoy her and that we don’t litter(we usually are on a quest to pick it all up) and why that isn’t a good choice. I have taught my kids how to breathe and how they can use their breath to help them in stressful situations. I have a yoga room and my children adore spending time there, we take turns using my reformer, weights, and yoga mat, we teach each other poses, bounce on the bosu and I explain how bouncing is healthy for the lymphatic system and stretching is good for your muscles and mind, and building strength will help you get big and strong like your Momma and Papa.
For some in today’s society the parents may be healthy but they keep that to themselves, for many, eating salad and lean chicken at dinner, but then feeding the rest of the family greasy foods. Or going out for a hike or tending the garden but leaving the kids inside watching T.V. At my house if I want to practice yoga (while my kids are awake) or go for a walk it’s either with them or nothing. And more important than me staying physically fit, is for them to see me take care of myself in all I do and incorporate them into it; so as they get older it’s no different than brushing their teeth, reading books and taking a bath. To them I want it is simply how things have always been, and these skills are skills that can and should be taught by the parents. Now sure they crawl all over me in plank and slide down my back in Downward Dog, and that at times gets to be a little much, but that won’t be forever and yoga to me is more than exercise it’s tapping into the inner self and connecting, isn’t it for you?To continue to read this article by Hope Zvara visit MindBodyGreen.com
Sit ups are a sure fire way to damage your back, neck and hip flexors. Remember the Physical Fitness tests in school, who can throw themselves up and down on a wrestling mat the most in 60 seconds is in shape. WHAT? Who in the world is coming up with these tests? No wonder as adults we are throwing ourselves all over the room thinking and feeling like we are getting our bodies in shape. If you never do another single sit-up in your life you will be better off. So what if you could engage in a exercise that would turn on more core power in less time and guess what, less effort? When I teach classes of any sort and especially core based classes most new-Be's feel the urgency to go fast and go really what they would call deep in the hopes of getting a better workout. And I am pretty sure I have pissed a few students off from time to time because I hold them back. And it's not the kind of holding back you are probably thinking, but rather the kind of holding back that will actually require more core power and more control.
As a teacher I see this often, other teachers and students trying to replicate moves they have seen in a magazine or others do in a class or at home. The only problem is they don't really know what they are doing, what they should be using and how to activate deep core muscle.
So today all you need is a small ball, or what some call a mini ball and take your time, go slow and focus more on stability than mobility. Think baby steps. A child will never learn to walk before he or she learns to stand and so on.
- Find neutral (refer to my you tube channel for a walk through on neutral) with the ball behind the sacrum and the spine long above.
- Step your feel sit bones with apart, if necessary place a block or extra ball between the knees for more pelvic floor integration and leg control.
- Exhale and slightly kiss the sacrum into the small ball without rounding the spine. Think about a hula dancer they can move their hips without moving their torso.
- With that kiss activate your pelvic floor muscles which will allow your pelvis to refrain from overly tilting when you go back and also assist your groin from taking over.
- Either place your hands gently at your knees or up at shoulder height.
- Inhale; begin to extend your body back without rounding and with out tilting your pelvis forward.
- Come to 45°, were the hip flexors are not straining and the body feels a slight earth quake shake. Remember to activate the pelvic floor region.
- Exhale and return back to an upright seated position. Be sure not to pull forward with the arms, but rather pull up through the top of the head and imagine a little hand in your core floating up.
- Repeat this 8-10 times, only as many as you can be the most effective.
- Don’t arch your lower back
- Adjust arm positions to support the neck or try arms crossed holding opposite elbows.
- It is not about speed or how many reps, this type of core work is about control and stability.
- Watch that your not resting on the ball, think trying to be in front of the ball when you move.
- Make an effort to minimally breathe into the belly and maximize breathing into the side body and ribs.
The psoas (SO-AZ) is a muscle running through the pelvis to the upper part of the femur.
This long, thick, fibrous muscle helps with walking, and is one of the largest muscles in the body.
In yoga the psoas is often overused, usually in place of the core in poses such as Boat, standing leg extension, and even tree, which can cause a barrel of problems.
And that's just the beginning!
The psoas is also a huge storage depot for fear, trauma, and childhood concerns.
Take, for example, the dreaded potty training stage. Emotional trauma from this stage can get buried in this early childhood developmental muscle, and decades later can become a cause for concern.
That's because the psoas is like a storage depot that never gets emptied: Everything just keeps getting dumped into the psoas.
Pain related to the psoas can easily cause a slew of symptoms such as:
One way the body tries to bring balance and release without us realizing it is by teeth grinding. By grinding our teeth, we allow synovial fluid to keep running through the CNS (central nervous system), helping the body find balance.
- Back pain
- Hip socket tension
- Leg length discrepancies
- Knee and ankle problems
- Groin pain
- Sleep issues
- Jaw pain
- Shoulder pain
- Difficulty walking or standing
- Excessive muscle tension
- Referred back and sciatic pain
Not understanding what the body is trying to do, we try to treat the grinding instead of the real issue: the psoas. That's why treatments such as crainosacral therapy work, because in this type of practice, one works to release the pelvis and other connected areas.
The psoas has many other cries for help, too, including menstrual cramps. When the psoas is tight, it pins the uterus down, giving a woman sometimes very painful cramping. Other signs that the psoas needs rehab include insomnia, foot and leg dysfunction, and water retention.
And as I stated before, the psoas holds deep-seated fear and trauma. That's partly the reason why people many times feel uncomfortable in a deep hip release, getting anxious, angry or sometimes even brought to tears.
I am in rehab for my psoas and for me, many of the above are causes for concerns. To continue reading this article please visit MindBodyGreen.com and don't forget to leave a comment or let us know you enjoyed it!
The need to want to work our core is ever present, and the misunderstanding that comes with that is greater that we realize. Our standard fitness tests in schools elude us to believe that speed and getting it done at all cost is the equivalent to a healthy body. Remember the sit-up test? Now I look back and I'm pretty sure that those sit-ups I was doing, while being held down by my partner had nothing to do with my core. Heck my gym teachers never even mentioned where my core was or what it was. I'm starting to wonder if they even knew. And then we take that mind set into our adult lives and retrain ourselves into this belief system, an uneducated one but none the less the mindset of no pain no gain, core work should involve flailing appendages and possibly even holding our breath at any one given point.
My approach to core work is slightly different where educating the student in what they are doing, why they are doing it and how to know if they are effective is the fore runners in how to approach the movement. Core work should not have to kill you and feeling something working can be as much as a good experience as it is a challenging one. So as you join me with Small Ball Heel Taps and keep in mind the pace, speed, and depth you drop your heel in this movement has nothing to do with it's effectiveness, it is all about stability before mobility then the progression of the movement.
- Begin by placing the small ball underneath the sacrum (it feels like the flat plate behind your pants).
- Find neutral pelvis and relax the rib cage for more torso support and a neutral spinal zone.(Neutral pelvis is ASIS [bony knobs on the front of the pelvis] laying parallel with the pubis bone to the ceiling).
- Inhale and feel the body on the ball.
- Exhale and activate the pelvic floor region, feeling the muscles of the pelvic floor draw inward and slightly towards the pubis bone (anal sphincter contracts forward), then begin to lift both legs off the floor without losing the neutral zone.
- Flex the feet and steady the legs together.
- Pause for a few breaths and find stability on the small ball.
- Adjusting the arms as necessary either arms long palms face in, bend the elbows (robot arms) or extend the arms to the sky relax the shoulders down into the floor.
- Reduce belly breathing and maximize side body breathing to more effectively use the lower core.
- Inhale; lower one heel towards the floor only as close as you can remain steady.
- Exhale and lift the heel back to center, all the while keeping the non-moving leg steady and still.
- Repeat one leg five to ten times, and then move to the other leg, resting in between as necessary.
- There after go back to the weaker side and repeat the process again, applying the 2:1 ratio to the practice.
- Further is not better, if the body cannot maintain a steady position the distance is too large.
- Do not let the back arch off the ball, floor or foam roller (which ever you are choosing to use), it is important to learn neutral before we take our bodies elsewhere.
- Choose an arm position that offers support, but is not gripping.
- Keep the shoulders relaxed, and use a head support if the eye line is directed above your forehead.
- Try this off the ball on the floor, work to keep in neutral zone, or try this with a foam roller.
Bracing is a concept that trumps "navel to spine". Sucking in the belly does not create stability and a stronger core. Join Hope for a quick "how to" to better understand your local layer of the core and the concept of bracing or co-contracting the core.