I will be the first to say that I do not enjoy the rehab type exercises when it comes to movement and physical fitness. I prefer to go for a hard run; lift heavy weights; do plyo type workouts and not have to think about how I’m breathing or aligned, but it is SO important. If you don’t have these building blocks then you could set yourself up for an even longer recovery. I have said it before and will continue to say it: the long way is the slow way!
The way we breathe and align our body all day everyday plays a huge role in how our body functions. During pregnancy and postpartum a women’s body changes significantly. The alignment changes that happen during pregnancy and postpartum can affect your pelvic floor either leaving it tight and short or unable to generate enough tension.
The Core is made of 4 muscles that need to coordinate together to have a functional body. The Diaphragm (breathing muscle under ribcage), Multifidus (muscles around the spine), Transverse abdominis (deepest layer of abdominals), and Pelvic floor muscles (the last layer of muscles the holds things up). The Glutes are also a huge part of the system. I like to say Glutes and the pelvic floor are best friends. These core muscles are extremely important in helping to stabilize our body. They support the spine and the pelvis.
The core + floor connection is an essential part of the process in recovering. Learning to release tension in your pelvic floor and abdominals and how to gain tension in your pelvic floor and abdominals is very important. Most people have been told or know how to do a kegel but we need to balance the tone of the pelvic floor muscles not just tighten.
Good alignment under load is important. Everyone’s ideal alignment can be different, but beginning in neutral can be a starting point. We have to understand the needs of the person in front of us – an advanced athlete or beginner athlete.
In order to get the body ready for the core floor connections we need to get in an optimal alignment. Alignment helps reduce Diastasis Recti and encourages pelvic floor health.
- Feet set up under your hips
- Ribs over the hips
- Bum untucked
- Tall spine
- Relax your belly- Sucking in your belly causes downward pressure on your pelvic floor
An optimal alignment isn’t necessary for all day-everyday, but there are critical times when it plays a key role in building and maintaining core and pelvic health. What you do during the day is as important or more important than your workouts. No alignment is perfect or bad, but pregnant women or newly postpartum women who have had a lot of changes in their core and pelvic floor will want to try to have their body in a position that they are able to utilize their glutes and all core muscles the best. Women with pelvic floor dysfunction can benefit from a more stacked alignment especially when under high exertion like lifting heavy. A lot of women either thrust their ribs up or have their bums tucked under when carrying their babies because it is physically easier to balance a baby on the hips when the bum is tucked under. That’s why moms should do some strength training!!! When alignment is set women are in an optimal position to breath properly. We want all of our core team to work and coordinate together.
While inhaling think about breathing into your ribs like an umbrella is opening. Not too much in the belly or too much in the chest. Try to relax your pelvic floor and imagine your two hips bones getting wider. On the exhale breath imagine two hips bones coming together and a slight lift up in the pelvic floor and abs.
On the Inhale let go on Exhale Rise up.
Some cues that Jessie Mundell recommends for the Core floor connection breath are:
- On exhale breath lift up bean/berry with pelvic floor and inhale put it back down
- Inhale hips bones getting wider on exhale they come together
- Instead of thinking about activating your abdominals by drawing your belly button to your spine (this can cause downward pressure), on your exhale breath think of belly button rising up towards your sternum.
The 3E rule I learned from Jessie Mundell can be used in your exercises in a workout, when lifting your child, putting your stroller in a car, squatting to pick up groceries etc.
Step one- Exhale
Step two- Engage
Step three- Exert
Julie Weibe is a renowned physio that has come up with piston breathing. A great cue she uses is Blow before you go (BBYG). You exhale before the exertion so your body is more set to take on the load you about to lift. You can use this method in lifting a barbell or your child. For dynamic moves or exercises women can also exhale through the entire range of motion if that feels better for them.
Squeezing, breath holding and tucking or thrusting are not techniques I advise during pregnancy/postpartum and just lifting in general! Rebuilding strength and stability needs to come first. We are also building automaticity for all movements so women do not have to always think of their breath and it will become natural!
Images Provided by: Brianne Amiel Fitness