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!):
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.
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!
Now, tuck your pelvis and suck in to feel the difference.
Did you try it? How did it feel? Hope you have a non-sucky day!