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:
Start Small, Less is More
If you jump into big movements before the core is strong enough, you can worsen abdominal separation and create dysfunction in the pelvic floor. While it’s tempting to push yourself, you will heal more quickly by going slow.
More Reps, Less Intensity
To keep yourself interested and challenged, do more repetitions but at a lower threshold of intensity.
Always ensure the abdomen stays engaged throughout movement. If you are no longer able to keep the muscles engaged on contraction or lift, you’re doing too much.
The cue to maintain engagement throughout movement doesn’t mean you need to suck the belly in or lift the pelvic floor. We shouldn’t hold our breath or feel a loss of tone in these muscles, puffing of the belly, or low back strain.
Start With the Breath
In all poses start with breathing: exhale while lifting the pelvic floor muscles and drawing the navel toward the spine, and relax slowly on the inhale. Once you have the breath connected, begin the movement to ensure you aren’t holding the breath or doing the work on inhale which can damage the pelvic floor or worsen abdominal separation.
While doing core work, ensure there is a flattening of the abdominal area, not a puffing upward or pooching. This doesn’t mean that there’s not extra skin or fat around the belly. We’re looking to avoid puffing or pooching in the muscles. When the muscles puff or pooch, it indicates a bracing with the diaphragm and often holding of the breath, which should be avoided.
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