Diastasis Rectified

My journey to heal postpartum diastasis recti

Am I engaging my core or just sucking it in?


Was it the first pair of tight jeans or the baby tee craze of late 90s that led to sucking my gut in for the first time? Ew, maybe it was those crop tops. Whatever the cause, it is long gone and the sucking in remains. I was under the impression that I have just always been a stellar example of constant ab engagement. Sadly for me, this is not the case.

Engaging our cores – specifically the “waist-making” muscles of the transverse abdominis (TVA) – and “sucking it in” have nothing in common. Sucking in creates a vacuum in the midsection that in turn displaces our pesky organs, moving them up and giving a skinnier appearance.  Sucking in does not strengthen any muscles. Sucking in is no friend to those of us with diastasis recti.

Engaging our TVA is something that happens naturally during the day as we need to use it, but programs like MuTu and Tupler work to strengthen it specifically so we can heal our diastasis recti. Since healing is dependent on doing this action correctly, I better be doing it right!

I have a hard time knowing that I am working my TVA and not sucking it in. You know how research shows that you haven’t mastered something until you’ve done it 10,000 times? Once we “master” sucking in, it’s a lot to unlearn!

In Katy Bowman’s Alignment Matters book, she has a post that helped me discover my TVA and differentiate that feeling from the sucking it in feeling. Really, it’s the only thing that’s helped me feel the difference. The more I do this diagnostic exercise, the more I can feel the difference when I’m going about my daily activities.

Here’s what you do (and I recommend checking out Katy’s post for lots of more detail!):

Step 1

Get on all fours and let your pelvis and back go to their normal, relaxed position. There should be a curve in the lumbar spine.


Step 2

Keeping that curve in your lower back and not moving anything else, contract your TVA by drawing the belly button up toward the spine. Do not move your pelvis!

TVA engaged

I was surprised how deep and low I felt this. Try it!

Step 3

Now, tuck your pelvis and suck in to feel the difference.

Sucking stomach in

This is why people suck in. So they can look like emaciated wildebeests.

Did you try it? How did it feel? Hope you have a non-sucky day!


Author: diastasisrectified

I am charting my progress as I recover from a diastasis recti and get back to an active lifestyle.

7 thoughts on “Am I engaging my core or just sucking it in?

  1. I’ve enjoyed reading your posts. My son (second child) is nearly a year old and I’m just now starting to try and actively fix my diastasis. it’s very frustrating. I think I got it with my daughter bit didn’t really know. I’m totally a Katy Bowman fan girl too haha, that’s how I stumbled on your blog. Keep writing, I’ll keep reading!

    • Jennifer, thank you so much for joining me! It sounds like our sons are about the same age. He got sick recently so I’ve been behind on comments, but I want you to know that I appreciate the encouragement and am so glad to have company. Please let me know how your process is going and if there is anything you’d like me to explore in future topics.

  2. Awesome photos! You described engaging TVA so clearly and it’s easy to feel the difference when you bring awareness to your pelvis.

  3. Thanks for this post. I love your posts. How about trying it when doing exercises laying on the floor? When laying on the floor and trying it, then it feels a very little difference between “sucking in” and “engaging TVA”. Isn’t it? I think that I have been engaging my core but I still don’t know if I am doing right or not. When exercising we are in such a continuous movement sometimes we don’t get to think if we are doing right or not.

  4. I am so glad I found you! I had our 6th child 2 months ago. Although I knew about DR for a few years, I haven’t really worked on mine. I have a 2-3 finger wide which is good for me! It was a 4-5 when I started reading Lose Your MommyTummy a year ago. All I’ve really done is learn how to engage my transverse during my daily activities. I appreciate this post! As soon as I’m done feeding baby I’ll try this to see if I’m really engaging my core as I thought!

  5. hi I know this is an old post but i am wondering. as I am doing this exercise if i am still activating my tva muscles when IO feel like I am pulling my pelvic muscles (doing a kegal?) but not actually moving my pelvis?

    • Hey Mary! Doing a kegel you feel within your pelvis (like the “pee stopping” muscles) but contracting the TvA should happen in between the top of your pelvis (your “hip” bones) and your ribs. If you’re feeling it in your “kegel place” then your brain might just be trying to recruit those muscles. It’s possible that it doesn’t talk to the TvA often, so it could just take some practice! Thanks for reading!

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