Understanding Diastasis Recti

Diastasis Recti is a condition when there is a split between the two side of the rectus abdomens muscles. This condition usually develops during pregnancy, when the uterus stretches the muscles in the abdomen to make space for the growing baby.

This is a simple test for diastasis recti:

  1. Lay on your back, flex your knees, feet resting on the mat
  2. Relax head and shoulder and place two fingers above the belly button along the midline 
  3. Place the other hand under your head and lift your head gently (like a crunch position)
  4. If your fingers can feel a space, you likely have a split rectus abdominals, which is diastasis recti

If you have diastasis recti condition, you will want to avoid movements and poses that stretch and open the midline of the rectus abdominals. Generally, these are backhanding poses like Danurasana (Bow Pose), Ustrasana (Camel Pose) and Urdhva Much Svanasana (Upward facing dog) etc. 

Instead, you should work on poses that strengthen your transverse abdominus and obliques. Transverse abdominis is the inner most abdominal muscle. The obliques are layer of muscles that overlie the transverse abdominis and strengthening the obliques can provide a more balanced core contraction, easing off pressure on the rectus abdominis. Recommended pose and movements are vasisthasana (side plank) , single-leg lift, hip raises.

As you understand the anatomy of diastasic recti, you may also modify the poses as necessary to reduce the pressure on the rectus abdominis by using the transverse muscles and obliques. By focusing on the right muscle and performing the right exercises reguarly, you will regain your core strength and notice the gap in your rectus abdomens closing up.

Recovering your pelvic floor after birth

Pregnancy stresses the pelvic floor muscles as your uterus expands to carry the weight and size of your growing foetus. You will experience an anterior tilt in the pelvis as the body supports the pressure. Furthermore, the pelvic floor muscles will also stretch and weaken further as you undergo natural childbirth.

What is the role of pelvic floor muscles and how can we strengthen them? Basically, pelvic floor muscles support the bladder, uterus and bowel. Often, we are told to contract and relax our pelvic floor muscles through Kegel exercises. However, I have learnt to understand that we should explore beyond the pelvic floor muscles, consider the muscles attached to the pelvis as strengthening these muscles can also help to stabilise the pelvis. For example, our adductors are connected to the pelvic floor muscles at the pubic bone, so when you contract your adductors, you are also tightening your pelvic floor.

So here are the 3 yoga poses I’ll recommend that will improve our pelvic floor strength and I’ll briefly explain why:

1) Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
This is fundamental yoga pose but has great benefits to your pelvic floor muscles if the correct muscles are engaged. In this pose, your quadriceps muscles are engaged, thighs slightly rotated inwards and pelvic should be in neutral alignment. The psoas is lengthened and it helps to stabilise the pelvis. I also recommend that you place a block in between the thighs to engage the adductors. 

2) Utkatasana (Chair Pose)
When you flex your knee joints, you will engage your rectus femurs and the iliopsoas which help to stabilise the pelvis. Keep your spine lengthened, hips and knee joints in a line. Try to lift your pelvic floor upwards as you hold the pose. 

3) Salabhasana (Locust Pose)
The gluteus Maximus, medics and minibus, together with other smaller muscles act as a base for pelvis. This pose activates your glutes and also counterbalance pelvic floor.

In addition to the above, you can further strengthen your pelvic floor muscles through Mula Bandha. This focuses on activating your deep core muscles (transverse abdominis supports the pelvis).

Pelvic floor is one of the most important area that moms should start working on after giving birth. If you do not treat this area and jump straight into other activities like running, you may encounter an exaggerated pelvic anterior tilt as your hip flexors get excessively tight. Eventually, your pelvic floor will become so weak and may lead to more serious problems such as urinary incontinence or even pelvic organ prolapse. So…Maintaining stable and flexible muscles around the pelvis is important for both yoga practice and daily life!