Mummy Tummy Part 2: Exercising safely with a Diastasis Recti.

As we explored in Part 1, Diastasis Recti is an often poorly diagnosed and mismanaged condition that affects over 50% of women post-natally. Understanding the anatomy and biomechanics of this condition is the key to determining effective modifications to promote safe movement, and to correct the Diastasis. In Part 2, we delve deeper into strategies and modifications for safe exercise that will get you back in shape while correcting the Diastasis once and for all.

Move Smart!

There are a number of ways to safely modify your movements while still being able to move effectively with a Diastasis, and get the most out of an exercise program. Supervised exercise with a skilled movement practitioner is an important aspect of treating a Diastasis. Working one-on-one with a practitioner will allow for individualized care based on your precise movement patterns. Firmly rooted in rehabilitation, Pilates can be a safe and effective method of exercise that is easily modified to correct the Diastasis with appropriate movements. Some of Pilates’ core principles of breathing, control, coordination and balance provide a fundamental basis for correcting a Diastasis. The flexibility of the Pilates repertoire allows for a number of safe modifications to effectively address a Diastasis. Some other common post-natal activities of choice are Yoga and Boot Camp. Given the group environment of these programs, these classes can be challenging and frustrating for women suffering from post-pregnancy complications if not modified correctly by a skilled practitioner.

Here are some easy modifications for each exercise method:

In Yoga Class:
Modified Warrior – Instead of twisting your torso away from your pelvis, keep your ribs facing the same direction as your pelvis (either both facing forward or both facing the side), and lunge as deeply as you’d like for a more intense pose. Avoid the back bend aspect of Warrior pose.

Star Alternative – To avoid the side bending aspect of Star, do the modified warrior as described above with both torso and pelvis facing the same direction.
Restorative Back bends – Because back bends will stretch the supportive structures along the Diastasis further, choose a comfortable flat lying position or lie propped up on an angle while keeping spine and pelvis in a neutral position.

Supported Child’s Pose – Rest your belly flat onto a bolster to help avoid the gravitational drop and pressure on the Diastasis, while spreading knees wide to the side of the bolster, and the spine long instead of rounded.

Modified Sun Salutations – fold forward at hips instead of rounding spine, step back into modified warrior as described above, step forward to the straight spine forward fold, then lift to standing with straight spine. Avoid the rounding forward, downward dog, upward dog, and cobra aspects of traditional Sun Salutations.

Have Fun with Lots of Neutral Spine & Pelvis Balance Poses!

In Boot Camp Class:
Boot Camp is a difficult exercise option to modify until the Diastasis is effectively treated, but this continues to be a popular choice among new mothers. Here are some easy modifications to help you enjoy the class safely:

Speed Skater – An effective alternative to jumping/high-impact movements like jumping jacks and burpies. Speed skater with limited bounce involves starting in standing with feet together, then lowering into a comfortable squat position with a slight straight-spine fold at the hips. Maintaining this lowered position, step or small jump the right foot wide to the right as the left leg follows and arcs behind the right leg. Step or small jump the left foot wide to the left, and follow with the right leg until it arcs behind the left leg. Let your arms swing to the side or keep your hands on your hips.

Balance – Instead of lifting heavy weights in upper body exercises, challenge yourself by adding standing balance on one foot, or sit on a stability ball with or without one foot hovered off the floor to challenge the Transverse Abdominis.

Lunges & Squats – These are great, provided the spine is prevented from rounding forward on the lowering phase. Avoid squats with weight on shoulders.

Supine Alternating Arm/Leg Reach – As a safe and effective alternative to plank, lie on your back with one leg lifted to a 90 degree angle at the knee and hip (aka Table Top), and the opposite arm reaching the fingertips vertically toward the ceiling. Slowly let the leg reach and extend long to 45 degrees or higher from the floor, while the arm arcs back toward the floor in the opposite direction. Keep the torso completely still, and the low back arch from lifting. Inhale as your reach, exhale to draw knee and arm back to start. Manually splinting (as described in Part 1) the Diastasis with your resting hand is also effective here.

Move Smart, Move Safe, Feel Great!

While it can be difficult navigating movement in your new body, a highly-trained movement professional can be a great asset. An experienced practitioner specializing in pre- and post-natal care can provide valuable tips and tricks to help you move safely, correct the Diastasis, and get back in shape.

Written by

Holly Wallis, Certified Movement & Rehabilitation Specialist, PMA®-CPT
Director of US Operations, Body Harmonics Pilates & Movement Institute

Studio Director, ReActive Movement, 6200 LaSalle Ave, Oakland, CA 94611

© 2014. All rights reserved.

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