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.
Hip flexors, nothing but a pain in the butt. Well, if you put it that way, the hip flexors are considered the front butt of the body.
In my experience the hip flexors and particularly the psoas in the body is an abused and misunderstood area, an area that drastically dictates our level of comfort and discomfort anything from sitting, standing, or running to infamous core work and worse yet, pain here can keep us up at night with a dull ache that just wont stop!
For most people stretching is either loved or something we just race through because we see it as not a good workout or too painful to withstand even for just a few breaths. But the truth is keeping our hips limber, stable and happy will not only help with pain in the entire body from foot to head, but improve our running, biking, sitting and sleeping.
The Scoop:When the body has not be taught properly how to work it will just grab onto any willing muscle, tendon or ligament and pull and grab until the job or task we are asking our bodies to do is completed. So all those boot camps and core cruncher classes you have been taking, heck even yoga will just make matters worse, if you let it. For many when we get injured or have pain we rarely want to admit it was our workout that caused it, but sadly this is the case for many.
So how does it work properly? Well many of you have probably heard me say this a number of times and I'll say it again "the body is built in layers", layers of wonderful tissue, and in the area of the hip flexors (the fold of the hip) it is an intersection of lower body muscles, core muscles and upper body strings all crossing and attaching in various points.
Our quadriceps feed up from the knee and into the hip flexor, the ilicaus and psoas come from interior-superior part of the femur bone (thigh bone) and run up through the inner hip and the psoas continues through the abdomen to T12 and the bottom rib and every vertebra below (T12-L5). Within our core neighboring muscles like the obliques, rectus abdominus and transversus attach near by making this a tricky area for who came first, the chicken or the egg. For many stretching consists of a few touch our toes and maybe a yank of the leg, pulling our heel to our buttocks. And it's not that these stretches are wrong but depending on what we are trying to achieve our approach, posture, position and length of time have a lot to do with the outcome.
Our hips hold on to the things we consciously and unconsciously hold on to. Fear, regret and the need to be grounded in our own personal being. Take time as you breathe to consider offering up the things that bind you down. For those with constant back pain or aching hips during core work our cardio, release the hip flexors is a very important aspect of healthy living. For every Yang there must be a Yin, balance is key!
- Lying on the floor take a yoga block (or mini exercise ball) and place the prop under the sacrum, take a moment and make sure that the block is not under the spine but under the flat plate feeling bone (which is the sacrum, and actually three separate bone meeting to feel like one).
- Take a moment and check your pelvis and spine, gently allow the pelvis to move into a neutral position (ASIS and pubis bone gently parallel to the ceiling) and relax your rib cage.
- Guide your left knee into your chest, but do not yank on the leg and pull in tight just yet.
- Slowly now, extend the right leg out to a lengthened position, flex the extended foot and reach through the heel.
- With the right leg extended take a moment and notice the initial stretch in the extended legs hip, do not let yourself be tempted to pull the bent leg in until the sensation you are feeling currently has passed.
- Now close your eyes and breathe, really focusing on the hip flexor of the extended leg. Imagine that the lower leg is literally being pulled out of its hip socket. Continue to focus on the socket.
- Depending on how your body is currently grabbing, you may need to rotate the lower leg internally or externally slightly to feel where it is you need the release.
- Continuing to keep the lower leg strong, reaching out and anchoring down, keep the hip socket soft and stretching. Check in after several breaths and if your body gives you permission to draw in the bent knee a bit more.
- Work here for 3 to 10 minutes on each side. This pose holds the most benefit when held for an extended period of time. Remember to use your breath, especially focusing on the exhale to release all tension.
- After your first side take 1-2 minutes and rest the body in a fully extended position, do not move to get rid of the sensation, but take some time to feel what your body is offering you. If needed, during this time remove the block and then reinsert on the second side.
- Explore the 2:1 ratio and go back to the restricted side a second time and repeat, allowing your body to seek even greater balance and harmony.
- Once you have completed the exercise on both sides rest on the floor with your body completely open and willing to receive all that you have opened it up to.
- NOTE: The block or ball may be too much for some, practicing this exercise on the flat floor is a great place to start.
Join Hope for a quick ten minute yoga workout to bring more vital energy to the spine and open the hips. Enjoy!
Place a block the long way between the palms fingers extended. Align the elbows the width of the shoulders/block spacing. Press evenly into the mat with your entire forearm, from elbow to pinky finger. If you have an extra block or a mini ball place that in between the the thighs and engage the thighs around the prop for more core activation and leg support. From your knees Inhale and draw the hips back and upward towards the ceiling, pressing out of the shoulders and allowing your hands to press into the block for more opening in the shoulders. Engage the entire belly feeling a drawing inward as you exhale.
Take five breaths pressing the forearms into the floor and drawing the shoulders up away from the head. Some calls this Puppy Dog or Forearm Down Dog or Dolphin, no matter what the name work to keep the length of the spine. If needed bend the knees slightly to help reduce a rounded spine.
After your last exhale, inhale and swim the body forward into forearm plank. Align the shoulders over the elbows and most importantly press evenly into the forearms to help take the pressure out of the lower back. Keep the pelvis in neutral (front ASIS, hip bones tipping slightly upward into the core). Engage the legs around the mini ball or block and do not sag the head. Hold here for five breaths.
Keep the pelvic core strong at all times, not sucking in but co-contracting the entire core 360 degrees round.
After your five breaths, sit back onto your heels in Devotional pose (aka Child's pose) for five breaths.
INHALE Move back into Puppy Dog --> EXHALE feel the contraction of the inner core and length in the spine-->INHALE swim forward into Forearm Plank --> EXHALE hold and contract on the ball between the legs and resist the core against gravity -->INHALE back into Puppy Dog. Repeat 5 - 10 times, using Devotional as needed.
Tags: Arms, Core, Back, Plank, Yoga, Core work, Down Dog
Plank is a great way to work your core, as long as you know what you are doing and what you should be feeling. Join Hope for the best 15 minutes spent in Plank you ever spent! Kick off your shoes and get ready to feel your deepest core muscles turn on and take off.
A great video for novice yogis, fitness buffs or the green exerciser
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!
Core work just got easier. Functional application requires us to throw away our old way of thinking and apply what actually makes sense!
Join me for a great 7 minute upright core workout that will leave you feeling stretched and core empowered!
Focus: Transversus Abdominus, Back Extensors, Obliques, Pelvic Floor and Rectus Abdominus
Almost every yoga class features at least one plank, yet very few can honestly say that they know completely what's going on in Plankasana. Most view it as a great core asana, yet few actually access their true core, and many are cheating themselves or hurting their backs by allowing their arms to do all the work.
To help you take full advantage of Plankasana, here's an overview of this widely used, but often misunderstood asana.
1. Pick your variation.
Will you be practicing on your hands or on your forearms? If you're going to be practicing on your palms, set up your hands shoulder distance apart and align the wrists under the shoulders. With your middle fingers pointing forward, press your entire hand into the floor, keeping a bit more weight in the knuckles.
From the shoulder, rotate the folds of the elbows forward, without hyper-extending the joint (they look like they're bending in the wrong direction). This is important so that you're able to shift the load down into the core and prevent the shoulders from doing all the work. Without hunching, slide the shoulder blades down your back.
If you prefer planking on your forearms, get out of the habit of clasping the hands together in a triangle shape. This puts an emphasis on the pectorals, rather than the core. By opening up the arms to a shoulder width, you again shift the load to where it belongs. Turn the palms inward or upward when practicing, rather than down into the floor. Shift the weight evenly throughout the entire forearm and you'll notice a significant increase in core power. Use a block between the palms for more core strength!To continue reading this blog post on Plank by Hope Zvara please visit MindBodyGreen where it was posted live on April 4th 2013 (CLICK) and don't forget to watch the video and share this with your friends!
Hope in High Lunge
This article was featured in the April 2013 Edition of Nature's Pathway's Magazine Southeast Wisconsin Edition. To view this article and rate it or "LIKE" it please do so here on my Blog and at NPM CLICK
- Three dimensional– In order to do the things we need to in life, we have to move in a multidimensional form. So, in order to improve our overall health and ability to live and function, our yoga class should too. This involves moving in three planes of motion: sagittal, which moves front to back (lunge); frontal, which moves side to side (like triangle); and transversus, which cuts the body in half, top to bottom (a movement like a twist or cross of the midline). Challenge yourself as a teacher or practitioner, and move in as many ways as possible.
- Gravity– When we step onto the mat, we need to take into consideration that gravity is always around us and upon us. Try to play with gravity in as many different positions and movement patterns as possible, and see what happens. Especially when it comes to the pelvic core and gravity, we will see the body respond differently.
- Dynamic– We often think of “dynamic” as complicated or having a lot of parts. But dynamic can also be movement using multiple forms. Here’s what I mean by this: When you step into a lunge, your arms always go forward and up, but what about moving your arms out to the sides or back by your hips? This way, you give yourself a dynamic range rather than always the same performance. Dynamic can also be moving in and out of a pose at variable speeds and levels depending on your ability. This type of dynamics can offer the muscles a less stressful way to release and the mind time to get to know the new body part discovered.
- Individualized– It is important to understand that each individual’s needs are unique. Believing that everyone in a class should be doing something exactly the same is not only crazy but also harmful. If we just consider men and women, our bodies are drastically dissimilar. Testosterone and estrogen act totally different on muscles and the build of a person’s body. Bone size, shape and spacing, as well as tendons, muscles and ligaments, all are very different from men to women.
- Breathe– This seems like a simple concept considering the average person takes a breath anywhere from 21,000-24,000 times a day. But the reality is that most people are shallow breathers and, on top of that, hold their breath. If you have the desire to improve your physical body and get healthy, it really needs to start with your breath. Weak breath flow has a slew of negative consequences, including poor digestion, asthma, anxiety, depression, headaches, muscle cramps and even pelvic floor dysfunction. So before you step onto a yoga mat, into a physical therapy clinic or a Zumba class, get educated and learn how to breathe; your body will thank you.
- Acknowledging the mind and spirit– We are not just a body bouncing around from point A to point B. One of the reasons I love yoga is that yoga understands that this physical body is the most superficial form of the self. There is so much more to understand than just what you see physically. And usually when you have a physical symptom or issue, that “issue” has been going on for quite some time — the physical body is the soul’s last attempt to get us to listen. When I exercise or step onto my mat, it is just as much a spiritual experience as prayer or meditation, if not more, because now there is an honoring of the body involved that I have to act on and respect … something that I can very well translate into my everyday life.
Got 10 minutes? When you exercise effectively the length of time becomes irrelevant. Join Hope for a quick ten minute workout in this great squat series using a weighted ball (don't have a weighted ball use a hand weight or even a soup can). Just ten minutes of breathing and body toning will leave you energized and feeling great about what you accomplished. Make a commitment to this series for a week and see the difference! Choose any one of my other videos to finish up with a great cool-down or yoga sequence. Namaste