Diastasis Rectified

My journey to heal postpartum diastasis recti


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Sit Bones, Tucking, Intraabdominal Pressure, and the Postpartum Pooch

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Along with my new diastasis recti friend Jamie at Belly After Baby, I have gone through some rough patches lately. 

Let’s review the life changes this process has brought so far:

  • Never sitting on sofas, the mattress, chairs, or anything that would displace the intraabdominal pressure. I mainly sit on the floor on my sit bones (those two bottom points pictured above). 
  • Getting rid of all of my heeled shoes, even the slightest ones.
  • Walking with weight in my heels, totally upright (which looks a little bit like a soldier and is hard with a stroller!)
  • Squatting instead of bending and lifting
  • Not torquing or twisting
  • Avoiding front carrying whenever possible.
  • Putting a bolster under my knees at night (if sleeping on back) or in between them (if sleeping on side)
  • Giving up my favorite exercises until I have strength again
  • NOT TUCKING MY BUTT. Muscle memory is for real, peeps. I learned to tuck my butt in lifting classes at the gym (grr) and it has been absurdly difficult to stop.

The list could go on. Needless to say, this takes serious commitment! It is easy to get discouraged.

I have been spending a lot of time on the Aligned and Well blog, trying to understand the role alignment plays in my diastasis. 

Takeaway: alignment is everything. I gently pressed on my belly today just to feel the force that intraabdominal pressure is putting on my midline and WOW, it is powerful! No wonder the muscles can’t keep it together. Only by taking away the pressure I’ve been loading these muscles down with will I be able to regain and keep a strong, flat core.

One of the things Katy over at Aligned and Well said in her first Alignment Snack shoulder class (screenshot below) was that it’s a great idea to move your body in ways that aren’t as familiar. For example, if you normally cross one arm over the other in a stretch, then do the opposite. Get your body out of its routine. She even advises gradually weaning yourself off a pillow, for example, in order to increase mobility.

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I’m starting to wonder if I had a small diastasis before pregnancy and didn’t know it, or at least poor alignment and a weak TVA. Then, wearing (chunky! sensible!) heels during pregnancy and doing literally thousands and thousands of weighted reps with my butt tucked probably took me over the edge. Let this be your fair warning, oh ye adorably fit pregnant person! 

I am going to be starting the Mutu interval training this week, as last week I still was doming in the easiest of exercises and I even missed a couple days. I hope I will see more progress by next week after trying the “Week 2” Mutu routine this week. 

We can do this, ladies! We’ve certainly met with much more difficult challenges before, even if they weren’t so easily visible to the outside world.

 

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Week 2, “Training Puppies”

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Training puppies

My all time favorite yoga teacher was this wiry ball of muscle, Janice. She was the only older woman I’ve seen rock pigtails legitimately. Anyway, at one of my first classes she explained how to engage your “yogi toes” and feet. She said that it feels strange now but it’s like training puppies – just keep showing them how and eventually they’ll get it.

I feel that way about not only engaging my TVA (transverse abdominis). Actually, I feel that way about just being aware my TVA is in there. I find constantly engaging my TVA while simultaneously not putting undue pressure on my abdominis rectus (“six pack”…”no-pack”) is especially difficult. I’m just so used to depending on my outer abs to help me out during the day. I had no idea how much I jack-knifed while getting up off of sitting surfaces.

Also, I’m not feeling much of a connection between my TVA engagement and pelvic floor engagement, which has me a little concerned. Anyone else out there experienced this?

Progress Report

Above are my week 2 pics. I think there might be progress? I have still not started the actual Mutu Week 2 course material (which uses high intensity interval training) because I feel challenged enough with just the six minutes of core work and stretches Week 1 entails. I plan to start that soon, though.

Specifically, the “Drop your heels, find your middle” exercise really rocks me. In this exercise she has me lay on my back, raise knees to the ceiling while keeping shins parallel to the floor, and drop one heel at a time down to the floor and back up. This exercise is so difficult for me that I can rarely do ten reps without feeling my abs separate and my innards poke through. This has me considering getting a splint after all!

 


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Throwing in the (gym) towel

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This was my gym up until this week and I am more than a little sad about it. It even overlooked the ocean. Lewis, Jeffery, Ann, Lori, Gary and many many others showered me with encouragement during the whole pregnancy and made me feel incredible. Blah, I’m still in denial.

So, why did I quit the gym? Three reasons:

  1. Most workouts I do there will further the injury. Body Pump/lifting increases the abdominal pressure to a point where I can’t control it. Back pain ensues. The middle falls out during spinning. I can’t do more than half of yoga. Here is a helpful list of workouts you can do with diastasis recti after you’ve regained some stability.
  2. Baby logistics. I can’t seem to squeeze in the extra 20 minutes of train commuting plus the workout time in the windows where my husband is home (and they don’t have childcare). The only time that’s feasible is Saturday morning and that’s our new social hour since evenings are for sleeping these days.
  3. We’re moving. We’ll be moving to a new neighborhood in a couple months, so just thought I would stop the financial bleeding now.

So, for now, I will just walk and accept the new normal (at least the walking isn’t hard since we don’t have a car!). This is what Wendy Powell suggests, anyway: walk and do the Mutu exercises and let everything else go until your transverse abdominis is strong again. Feels a lot like starting at the very beginning, but there’s a lot about motherhood that feels that way!


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Mourning the loss of my heels

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A fundamental benefit of the Mutu program is that you aren’t required to wear an approximating diastasis splint (side note: it’s die-ASS-sta-sis, not die-ah-STAY-sis as I once thought). Anyway, this is a good thing because you have to wear the splint 24/7 with the Tupler (pronounced Tuh-pler, not Too-pler) technique except for when you shower.

In exchange for not being corseted by the splint, we must try to decrease your intra-abdominal pressure. Or, we need to stop pooching our bellies out and scrunching up our lower spine because it’s stretching out our abdominus recti. Tucking the rear under and sucking in to try to pretend you don’t have a pooch will likewise do you no favors.

In order to decrease the intra-abdominal pressure you must:

  1. Get rid of all of your heels, even the slightest heel. Ladies, this means I had to get rid of my beloved Frye boots that I wore almost every day during pregnancy. Any lift at all will pitch your whole body forward and you’ll have to tuck-and-suck to be upright (heels also flare your butt up, creating a sexier/more baboon-like look). I bought two pairs of Tieks and one pair of Uggs (pictured) and I literally wear no other shoes. More closet space!
  2. Walk totally upright with your weight in your heels. I feel this most when walking up inclines with a stroller (hello, life in San Francisco!).
  3. Stop jackknifing when getting up.  This is the toughest for me because I always used to rely on the abs to bring me up. I kind of saw it as an extra strengthening exercise. No longer.
  4. Squat when doing all lifting. This one was not bad when the baby was 10-15 pounds but now I find it really difficult not to compromise other muscles when lugging around the man baby.

There are other things but the basic premise is body awareness and creating an environment that is conducive to healing the connective tissue. I say that with a little hesitation because most doctors say that healing the connective tissue between the muscle bellies is impossible and you have to get surgery, so I consider this all one big experiment.

*Note: I am in no way affiliated with Mutu and have not signed up for their referral program because I am not far enough into the program to endorse it. My only motivation for writing these posts is to find some solidarity and help me stay committed to the program!