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.
If there is concern of diastasis or it has been assessed and diagnosed by a professional, you will want to modify all core work with these simple supports. All core work should be approached slowly and gradually, building from smaller movements to bigger movements and ensuring that throughout the work the core is engaged. If there is ever the inability to maintain engagement (this may show up as the belly puffing up or holding the breath), the movement is too big, and you should go back to a smaller movement where engagement can be maintained.
There are two options to provide additional support with the hands for diastasis during core work. With both of these options, the pressure should be deep enough that the muscles of the abdomen are being pushed rather than just the upper layers of skin and fat. For any core work where the head is being lifted off the floor or legs are being lowered away from the abdomen, do the following on the contraction or engagement of the core:
Center Line Belly Squeeze
At the point where abdominal separation is the greatest, bring the heels of the hands to either side of the center line of the belly and interlace the fingers across the center line. On the lift of the head or engagement of the belly, squeeze the heels of the hands toward one another to encourage the muscle bellies to continue to hug toward the center line of the body.
Cross Torso Wrap
Bring hands across the belly to opposite side of the abdomen. It is best to focus where abdominal separation is the greatest, but if there is uncertainty, the best place to place the hands is with arms crossing at the belly button. On the lift of the head or engagement of the belly, drag hands toward one another to encourage the muscle bellies to continue to hug toward the center line of the body.
Learn more about abdominal separation and all the ways the core can be supported and rebuilt safely in Yoga for the Pregnant & Postpartum Core.
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