Every few months I teach a Partner Yoga for Birth workshop that helps pregnant folks and their partners explore how yoga and breath can help prepare for labor and also ways they can explore together what support looks like during labor.
With restrictions in place on the number of support people currently allowed at hospital births, many folks have been inquiring about how to better prepare their birth partners for supporting them in their labor. Here are some key takeaways from that workshop that will hopefully be of service to you and to them.
Outside of the bodily discomfort that comes with holding a new baby, core strength is the main thing folks attend postnatal classes to address. Core weakness impacts everyone no matter what their pregnancy looks like, and everyone needs to rebuild strength postpartum. The sooner we can begin to address core strengthening the more quickly we may notice back pain and weakness also diminishing. Its a win-win, but knowing where to start can be challenging. We don't want to jump right back into aggressive core work as we begin, but instead start slow and simple.
When we think about pregnancy we don't really think about having a core, we generally think about losing it, which is something that happens to a certain extent. But understanding what happens to you core during pregnancy can be very helpful in understanding how to avoid issues in the core during pregnancy (like diastasis recti) which can have an overall impact on the health of your core as your start to heal postpartum. Curious to find out what's happening?
The pelvic floor is crucial to address immediately postpartum. Most folks will be dealing with some kind of issue with pelvic floor postpartum. Because muscles are more internal and there can be multiple issues going on, every person should attempt to see a pelvic floor specialist postpartum.
Addressing pelvic floor health is crucial as pelvic floor health can impact urinary incontinence, fecal incontinence and may cause pain during sexual intercourse. Please know that none of these things are “side effects” of childbirth that should just be accepted. If any of these things are happening, you should definitely see a specialist to help address the issue. Pelvic floor health also impacts the overall functioning of the core and should be addressed in conjunction to healing the core postpartum. If you are beginning to do core work but have weakness in the pelvic floor, pressure from doing core exercises can be displaced to the pelvic floor and can cause further injury or trauma so strengthening pelvic floor along with core is key.
The most significant muscle stretching in the core happens along the rectus abdominus and impacts the connective tissue called the linea alba. The linea alba runs along the midline of the rectus abdominous from the sternum to the pubic bone connecting the muscle bellies (think of the muscles we see in six-pack abs) of the abdomen. As the uterus expands, the muscle bellies can separate and the linea alba stretches thin. This creates what is called a diastasis recti. In its most scientific sense, diastasis is a musculoskeletal injury, where the rectus abdominus tears at the connective tissue, separating it from the linea alba.
Postpartum, as students return to yoga, a big focus is on strengthening the core. During pregnancy, the core sees the most impact and change and rebuilding strength and function takes time. As the core is strengthened not only will there be more ease in yoga asanas, but students will also notice better posture, less back pain and often less glue and hip pain.
The main struggle? As students return to practice, they may feel a particular pull to start doing strong core work immediately to help “rebuild” the core. It is important to remember that you can actually do more damage to the core and prolong healing if you push too hard too fast. Here are some things to keep in mind with postpartum core work:
One of the first questions many of my postpartum yoga students have is how to navigate recovery from a c-section and returning to their yoga practice. C-sections, whether elective or not, also can have an impact on core function postpartum. Luckily, it is no longer common practice for abdominal muscles to be cut during C-sections, but there is still healing that must take place. What is most common now is that once the top layers of skin, tissue, and fascia are cut, the abdominal muscles are separated along the linea alba to give access to the uterus. The muscles are held open during the period of the surgery, but, while this sounds intense, because the separation is brief, the connective tissue, while traumatized, re-heals rather well. And because the abdominal muscles are not cut, there is less dysfunction in the core postpartum because the length of the muscle bellies remains intact and strength can be more easily rebuilt.
Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor—the Latin word for the heart. In one of its earliest forms the word courage meant “To speak one’s mind by telling one’s heart.”- Brene Brown
The third chakra can be a tricky energy center to explore. Associated with the element of fire this chakra can be a storehouse for big energy—fire can be strong, unpredictable and potent. Because of its intensity it can often mask some of the underlying energetic signatures that occur in this chakra. Despite all this intensity, one of the biggest opportunities in the third chakra is exploring vulnerability. So often, when anger, frustration and short-temperedness arise (emotions often associated with this chakra), it is because there is underlying fear underneath. Through this we are trying to hide and protect hurt parts of ourselves to keep from getting more deeply wounded.
This New Year's Yoga Retreat at Doe Bay was my 7th year leading this wonderful retreat. At this point, most attendees have been in past years because folks just keep coming back. The nourishment we create through practice, community, yoga and food during this weekend is unparalleled and I love coming back again and again as a touchstone to the start of each my new years. This year, with the snow moving through the San Juan islands day before, we practiced a great deal of non-attachment as the weekend approached, debating whether the retreat would go forward. Luckily, the weather behaved and the roads were cleared and we came together again for 3 days of reflection, insight and connection. Our focus this weekend was being present. So often the new year holds plans for the coming year or reflection on the past but it felt potent to simply sit with what is, moment to moment and that was our practice for the weekend. Below you'll find quotes and poems that were part of the weekend. I hope they inspire!
I arrived back home this afternoon feeling so blessed after my yearly retreat at Sleeping Lady Resor this weekend with my dear friend and co-teacher, Melina Meza. This retreat always lands at the right time each year, as an invitation to slow down and listen to my intuition and my body before the hectic pace of the holiday season kicks in. I also love the opportunity to reconnect with returning folks, excited to find out what the past year has held for them, and always look forward to meeting the new attendees each year. The richness of the weekend involves movement, meditation and a great deal of poetry. Here are the poems I used for inspiration this year:
Yoga teacher, sound healer and explorer of the inner landscape. Join me!