Diastasis Rectified

My journey to heal postpartum diastasis recti


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Changing Habits for Diastasis Recti Healing

It’s rare I meet a woman with a diastasis recti who hasn’t beat herself up for “slacking off on my exercises” (I bet men would

pie chart of habits

If we can make changes in the blue and grey times, then the yellow will be more impactful!

say the same thing, but I’ve never yet met a man who realizes he has a DR. Come join the DiastasisRectified party, guys!).

The paradigm is: 1) “my body is screwed up” and 2) “I need to do exercises to get it better” and 3) “Why am I not doing my exercises?” 4) “Ugggggh.”

So this post is not about exercises, because let’s just give that a rest for a minute. This post is about habits. We’ve spent (x) number of decades forming habits of movement: how we brush teeth, lounge, carry stuff, sit, open stuff, cut things, and on and on. Maybe we spend one hour a day three or four or even more times a week doing concerted “exercise” efforts, but what about those other 23 hours each day?

Our bodies take the shape of our habits

sketch of skeletons, one with rib thrust, one without

Pelvis forward, ribs thrusted will put pressure on our tender midsection versus letting our skeletons do the work of carrying our mass around. Oops, I forgot to draw the sacrum on the right skeleton. Just imagine it’s there.

All those tens of thousands of times we do those things will create some pretty deep neural pathways. Copying what parents/caretakers did, getting all that sitting practice at school (what activity did we do more than sitting?!), and then friends, culture, environment, sports, interests (bike riding, reading, video games), and personal preference.

What likely didn’t shape our habits was what would be most beneficial for our bodies over time: protect joints, prevent injury (like diastasis recti, eh?), get blood flowing, maintain healthy muscles, stay flexible, yada yada.

Unless your parents were yogis and you lived in a furnitureless yurt in the rainforest canopy and foraged for food. If I just described your childhood, please let’s be friends.

Below are pictures of me doing a habitual body position and then trying an updated option that doesn’t add more stress to my already totally stressed out diastasis. I’m working on keeping ribs down, untucking my tailbone, and keeping the weight in my heels.

Rewriting the code of everyday movement…in pictures

Instead of this… I’m trying this
Sitting in a white Modernica clamshell, reading a book sitting on two yoga blocks, reading
Being stationary in my favorite clamshell, reading about moving Pelvis elevated above heels to allow tailbone to untuck
washing face, rounded over washing face, tailbone untucked
 Rounded spine, tailbone tucked. This actually hurt,
but I just don’t pay attention to the dull ache usually.
 Untucked pelvis, using my hammies to hold me
up, trying to keep ribs from thrusting toward counter
 sitting on the toilet  sitting on the toilet with elevated feet, pelvis untucked
Lots of strain on the old pelvic floor (esp if you hold your breath!) Tailbone not as tucked, feet elevated. Feelin’ so fly.
You could also try zees, but my husband has forbade.
 leaning against counter  standing while brushing teeth
I do this ALL THE TIME, like I am
incapable of holding my own body up
for the two minutes it takes to brush
my teeth (yes, I time it so what)
 There you go, lady. That’s better.
 Sitting in a chair  untucked pelvis in chair
 Working on my chair-shaped bottom  Sometimes life calls for chair sitting, but sitting
on the edge means I can untuck the tailbone.
 holding child on hip  holding child in arms
 The ever-popular holding child on hip
whilst contemplating something
 Using arms to hold kid instead (okay maybe there is a
little leaning but have you seen the size of that guy?!)
bending over to pick toys up squatting to pick up toys
 It feels so normal to pick stuff up this way,
but I’m putting tons of pressure on my spine
Switching it up to a squat, I feel the work in
the pelvic floor. Been trying this a lot more this
week and it is feeling more normal.
 getting out of chair  squatting to get out of chair
 Using momentum to send me out of this
chair, while knees go way over toes
 Keeping knees over toes, turning
“getting out of chair” into “hey let’s squat”
thrusting ribs when I need to reach up reaching without moving ribs
 Moving ribs up and out (like the illustration above)
in order to reach the cabinet
 Keeping ribs down (and therefore abs “on”) while
reaching up. Feeeeeeling the burn in the shoulder
here.

Now that I’ve done these, I am thinking of so many more! How I pick up my kid, getting out of bed (remember friends, no jackknifing!), opening heavy doors, stirring a big pot of something, how I always sit on one foot, etc.

What are some things you can switch up?


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Do you really need to strengthen your transverse abdominis to heal diastasis recti?

Well, I did it! I am officially and anxiously signed up to become a Restorative Exercise Specialist and will be participating in a January 2015 certification week. If you’ve thought it sounds a little quiet around here, that’s because I’ve been totally overwhelmed by the firehose of information. I didn’t know what I didn’t know, you know? I’m looking forward to sharing bite-sized bits that apply to our conversation here. Thanks for coming along with me! 

The Transversalis

Look at the height on that thing!

If you’ve gotten within a stone’s throw of a diastasis recti you’ve heard the words “transverse abdominis” (TVA) being thrown around. Whole programs have cropped up around the strengthening of this deep-down ab muscle (going up on the “elevator,” anyone? Hundreds of reps daily, perhaps?). I even wrote a post about how to know if you’re actually contracting your TVA. Everybody focuses on it and maybe is hard on it (like, “get it together TVA! You have organs to restrain. Stop lollygagging. Why are you still so weak?”) Geez, I am mean. Maybe if I understood it more I would be a little more compassionate.

Can I call you by your full name?

The full structure is called the transversalis and goes all the way up near your sternum (aka breast bone) and wraps around to your spine. On the bottom side it attaches to your pubic area. In the front, like where the belly button is, there is no TVA muscle fiber – just what’s called aponeurosis. It’s the fascia, or connective tissue, that bring the transversalis full circle and let it create a waist for you. How nice of it.

If you, like me, happen to be lacking a “waist” then the transversalis is sounding pretty important to you right now. This is why it gets all the attention in the diastasis recti recovery programs.

If your waist making muscles aren’t making a waist, then you should contract them a whole bunch and get a waist already! Right? Well, as you may have guessed, it is more complex (dare I say elegant?) than that.

What do abs actually do?

As it turns out, our ab muscles weren’t created for the purpose of giving us a sculpted look. If you think about it, our skeleton goes on a vacation between the last ribs and the “hip bones.” It’s like an organs-fluids-and-food party up in there. That is probably a real theme on a college campus somewhere. Anyway, something has to help keep all those goodies in place and manage the relationship of the top of our bodies to the bottom of our bodies so we don’t just fold over into a heap.

As you might be able to make out from my scribbles (notes from class below), the obliques move your upper body laterally from your lower body. The rectus abdominis aka “six-pack” aka “never gonna see you again” bend the torso forward.

What about the transversalis? It’s job is to concentrically compress.

Illustrations of ab muscles

When you put all these together: side-to-side movement control, frontward folding movement control, and compression you have stability.

Stability while walking, while standing on a Bosu, high-fiving strangers, riding a bull at the saloon, or whatever you are into. Like, you don’t have to do a bunch of side bends to use your obliques. You do need to do that to “get” obliques that need their own bra (bralique?), but not to just have healthy “strong enough” obliques. Just put your body in positions that it needs stability for and everything turns on.

Turn that TV(a) on

Let’s do a little exercise here to demonstrate the transversalis in action. This was exciting to me, but keep in mind that I’m easily entertained. Sometimes I play with my son’s toys after he goes to bed. He’s one and a half.

dropping ribs down

The only difference in these pictures is the position of my ribs (or at least I tried really hard to keep everything I could constant. I don’t have a mirror, so I did my best!). I am not sucking in and I am not consciously contracting my abs. I am just telling my brain to drop my ribs back down because it habitually tells them to shear upward like a big, cocky rooster. Thanks, ballet, for that muscle memory.

One finger is on the bottom point of my ribs and one is on my “hip bone” (ASIS). Just putting our bodies back into this position (which is where the ribs should naturally be) activates the TVA: while we walk, bosu, bull ride, or whatever. It also maximizes the abdominals’ abilities to be strong by keeping them in the right plane of action.

Walking with our ribs down is one of the most important things we can do to help our diastasis heal and restore tone to the transversalis. Really!

Ok, but are isolated TVA contractions bad?

I don’t think so, but they are definitely not a requirement for the road to recovery. A strong transversalis is a requirement, but isolated contractions aren’t. If you feel like you want to keep it up then just make 100% sure you are not sucking in (which I still do constantly – ack!) AND aren’t overdoing it, which could make the muscle fibers too short. Tight muscles are also weak muscles. And remember, the contractions aren’t a replacement for walking or alignment and they can’t decrease your intra-abdominal pressure.

I really want to go for a walk after writing this, but I have a sleeping kid. Can anybody relate?!


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Rib thrusting, diastasis recti, and where to go from here

Bellies 2014

I am almost done with the Psoas course from The Restorative Exercise Institute and I am here to report that I am a rib thruster. Notice in the second photo from the right how the bottom of my rib cage is in front of my ASIS (your ASIS is the bony part of your pelvis in the front that is commonly mistaken for a hip bone). This shortens my psoas muscles, shifts the way my body carries its own weight, and increases pressure in all the wrong places. I would explain more, but I’m not an expert. Yet.

This, and other misalignments, help explain explain why Mutu isn’t giving me the results I want. I don’t meant the appearance I want but rather the body function. The machine of my body is more like the ’89 Volvo with the electrical problem that would leave me stranded in the middle of the highway (literally in the middle…of a lane…it would just shut off) and less like the aerodynamic Teslas I see zipping around the city. For example, I was out of commission for days last week with a debilitating neck and back spasm which my 22lb 9mo was only too happy to accommodate [sarcasm]. I have felt like the work I’m doing, while having some visually obvious effect on my body, has not been addressing the full root of the problem. It’s like if you put fertilizer on a plant whose soil is too acidic or alkaline – you are not going to help the plant until you adjust the soil.

I believed I was fixing my “soil” with zero drop shoes and some lifestyle changes, but I’m seeing now that the more fundamental problems require more extensive changes Habits I’ve learned over literally decades (dating all the way back to my first ballet class at 4) and things drilled into me in the Exercise Science building at my college or in the group classroom at the gym not only contributed to this problem in the first place but are preventing me from being well.

BUT WAIT, it’s not all sad panda around here! I am on a trajectory to fix these underlying issues. While Wendy does base many of her exercises on Katy’s work, I need more information and practical knowledge. I need to understand all the “whys” because that’s just the kind of woman I am, I guess. It won’t affect change in me until I really “get” it, that much I know is true. That’s why I have signed up to complete the first step of the certification program to become a Restorative Exercise Specialist. It’s a nice goal to have, but in end systems are more important than goals. So, part of my “system” is to continue to integrate what I’m learning and applying into this blog and pass on the information to all of you with separated bellies wondering if it can even get better. Together we can create healthier, happier bodies that work with us and not against us. I hope you’ll join me. 🙂