Guest Blogger: Women’s Health: Breath and Balancing Your Core

We hear so much about the ‘core’ these days.  We know from all this information that a strong core is what we desire.  It has been promised that a strong core will bring all sorts of health and beauty benefits to us.  So why is it that sometimes we can work so hard at so called ‘core’ exercises yet never make our bellies flat or feel like we can do everything we desire with our strong cores?

Often times we are using only the middle or lower half of our core for exercise and postural support throughout the day.  This would be like trying to do a push up without using your arms!  Many of us have unknowingly adopted breath holding or shortened breath patterns in our stressed out, go-go-go lives.  This type of breathing habit makes it difficult to use our diaphragm throughout the day and with exercise.  

Why is the Diaphragm so important?  When we inhale, the diaphragm actually moves downward and out.  It starts out with a dome shape and it flattens out at the end of our inhale to make room for our lungs that are full of air.  This creates a pressure gradient in the abdomen so that when we exhale, our pelvic floor and belly muscles naturally want to draw upward and inward (what we are trying to achieve with ‘core’ work).  If this sounds a bit like patting your head, chewing gum, and talking all at the same time you are not alone!  Practice coordinating this movement  in sitting throughout the day.  When it becomes more natural, add it into your fitness routine.  I have included a step by step tutorial below to help coordinate your core.  Bottom line- whenever you are doing any exercise, JUST BREATHE!

STEP 1: Take a seat in a firm chair where you can place both feet on the floor.  You need to sit towards the front half of the chair.  

STEP 2:  Find your neutral spine by slowly tilting your pelvis forward and tucking it back until you find the perfect spot where you are right on top of your SITS bones (those two little boney points on your butt).  If you are too far forward you will not feel them.  If you are too far back it will feel like you are sitting on your tailbone.  RELAX your shoulders!

STEP 3: Inhale deeply feeling your belly and ribs rise.  The ribs should move outward like they are stretching out the band on your sports bra.  You may also feel your pelvic floor muscles (the tissue right between the SITS bones) relax or stretch a bit here. Try to avoid movement in the shoulders and upper chest.  A little is OK, but most of this should come from the lower ribs and belly.

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STEP 4: Slowly exhale beginning to draw your pelvic floor muscles and belly button upward and inward.  Feel as thought the ribs are ‘knitting’ together.  For the Pelvic Floor- think about if you were trying to pick up marbles with your vagina but avoiding squeezing your butt!

STEP 5: Relax and congratulate yourself! And, continue practicing throughout your day!


 

Megan AndersonDr. Megan Anderson is a Physical Therapist and Yoga Instructor specializing in women’s health and Pelvic Floor Dysfunction.  She loves teaching and sharing her passion to empower women to live their lives on their own terms, free of physical limitations and pain.  Her self named PT practice brings therapy, wellness, and yoga services home to her clients to promote comfort and flexibility.  www.meganandersonpt.com

Diastasis Recti Workout: Part II

guestbloggerjennifer

This is the second post in our series by Guest Blogger Jennifer.  

Make sure you caught the first post here!


In the first post in this series we talked about what is Diastasis Recti and how to diagnose yourself at home.  Today, we talk … well how do you fix it?  One of the things we discussed was doing different ab work.  Here it is!

Diastasis Recti Workout

Heel Drop – 2 rounds of 10-25 reps. 

Heel Slide – 2 rounds of 10 – 25 reps.

Bicycle – extend each foot 25 times.

Reverse Bicycle – not videoed, but an option if you so choose.

Lying down Weight Pull – 10-25 depending on your strength and weight you choose to lift

Side Slide – 5-15 reps each side.

Pelvic Tilt – 3 rounds of 10 reps

Heels to Heaven – 5 reps

Overhead Standing weight pull (triceps pull) – 10-25 reps.

Contractions (repeatedly pulling belly button to spine while holding in pelvic floor) – 4 rounds of 25.

Elevators (pulling belly button to spine while holding in pelvic floor ) – hold while counting out loud to 10 , 20, or 30.  3-5 rounds

Stretch

Walk/Run


Download your copy of the workout here: Diastasis Recti Workout


Follow along with me here to complete the workout together!

What is Diastasis Recti? Part I

Check out our 2 part series from Guest Blogger Jennifer on Diastasis Recti.  You can find the other post here.


What is Diastasis Recti?

Diastasis (dye-uh-STAY-siss REK-tye) Recti is when the left side and the right side of the Rectus Abdominus (your six pack) separate.  This does not mean the two sides have been sliced apart from each other.  It means the connective tissue between the two sides has been stretched and thinned.

How does one get Diastasis Recti?

D.R. comes from excessive intra-abdominal pressure.  (pressure from the inside of the abdomen pressing outward)  Situations that can cause this level of pressure are pregnancy, weight gain in the abdomen, and doing ab exercises without proper form.  Sometimes even children can have it.

How do I know if I have Diastasis Recti?

You can go to a physician and get tested and have an ultrasound.  BUT, there is also a test you can do on yourself in the comfort of your own home.   

  1. Lie flat on your back.
  2. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor.
  3. Place your hand, palm down, on your abdomen with your middle finger over your belly button.
  4. Stand your hand so that your finger tips are the only thing touching your belly.
  5. Gently press down, just a little.

Now, that you are wondering about my sanity and directions (haha!), gently lift your head, just off the floor, while tightening your abs.

IF you have Diastasis Recti, you will feel your abs tightening around the outside of your fingers.

IF you do NOT have Diastasis Recti, you will feel your abs tightening under your fingers.

Now, if you felt your abs tightening around your fingers OR you could not feel them at all, it is now time to figure out how deep and how wide the separation is.

You will now repeat the steps above until you can figure out how many fingers will fit between your left side and right side.

Once you determine how wide the separation is you will do the above again to find if your separations depth.  The depth typically fits in the categories of shallow, medium, or deep.

NOW, for the next two items on the list.  You will AGAIN, do the above steps to find how many fingers you can fit 2-3 inches above your belly button and then 2-3 inches below your belly button.

For instance, my diastasis is a 1-4-2.  Deep at the 4.  I have been working on mine for a few weeks and have seen my top go from a 3 to a 1 and my bottom from a 3 to a 2.

Typically a 2 finger width or less is considered non-problematic.

What do I do now that I know I have Diastasis Recti?  How do I fix it?

Splint:  This is a special splint that is supposed to be worn 24/7.  It simply holds the separated abs closer together so the connective tissue has the opportunity to heal.

Rehabilitative Exercises:  (See the new D.R. AB workout video in the 3rd part of this series!)

Avoid traditional ab exercises and positions that require twisting and/or sitting up like crunches, V sits, etc.  When getting up from a horizontal position (like lying in bed) roll over onto your side and then use your arms to push into an upright position.  These types of exercises/positions require the 6-pack muscles to tighten and pull and if you have D.R. those muscles are unable to do that action.  As a result the position can cause the separation to worsen.  Nobody wants that!

Learn to use your TVA: (Transverse Abdominus) also known as your “internal girdle.”  This muscle should be engaged during your daily activities such as: sitting, standing, walking and especially when lifting, pulling, pushing.


guestbloggerjennifer

Thank you for your amazing insight Jennifer!  We really appreciate this series!