Diastasis Recti is the medical term for the separation of the rectus abdominus muscles. Although this is often seen to be caused by pregnancy, the truth is, anyone can have a diastasis. The condition is caused by dysfunction in your ‘fascia’, or connective tissue, and your body’s inability to control the intra-abdominal pressure (IAP) that is created when you move or do anything high impact.
So what causes Diastasis Recti and how can Pilates help? Read on to discover our 5 top tips.
During pregnancy, your abdominals may separate when moving to create space for your baby to grow, develop and ease into a good position for birth. Pregnancy Pilates can encourage your body to make this space without forcing your rectus apart and causing postnatal problems. In pregnancy, you should focus on strengthening your transverse abdominals (those low down in your belly) whilst also allowing your rectus to soften. The tighter and more toned your abdominal muscles are before pregnancy, the more likely they are to be forced apart. Work must be done to soften the belly, create mobility in the fascia and improve your posture to avoid further stretching of the lines alba that sits down the middle of your abdominals.
High quality Pilates will teach you how to control your intra-abdominal pressure and release your connective tissue, this will help you to gain more mobility and encourage your abdominals to function effectively.
At Centred Mums, we use ‘The Center Method for Diastasis Recti Recovery’ in our postnatal classes. It focuses on ‘relax, release, realign, restore’ and is incredibly effective in assisting healing. We have had absolutely amazing results using this work in our Diastasis Recti Recovery Class.
Please remember that, before you start any postnatal exercise, it is important to ensure your abdominals have been checked by a qualified professional.
When working to heal a Diastasis it is important to look at the ‘condition’ of your connective tissue, or ‘fascia’. Often there is a ‘pull’ that means it can’t function as it should and releasing this is vital to your recovery.
A dysfunction is often a full body issue. Rather than focusing solely on strengthening your abdominals, it is essential to explore ways of releasing tension in other areas of your body; especially if you have any scar tissue. In our classes we use fascial release balls to help with this, but it can also be very useful to try postnatal massage, visit a ScarWork therapist if you have any scars, or consult a women’s health physio/osteopath who can help to release any restrictions you may be holding onto.
All of which will help your fascia to function better, so that, when you’re ready to work on gaining strength, you will be able to do so effectively.
Pilates helps you to create a better sense of balance in your breathing patterns. If you are a ‘belly breather’ then each breath you take could, potentially, be increasing your intra-abdominal pressure and making your abdominal separation worse. By using exercises to mobilise your thoracic spine and ribcage, we can improve your breathing patterns which will help your core to function more effectively.
As mentioned, Diastasis Recti can be caused by a lack of ability or technique to handle Intra-Abdominal Pressure, which then causes excessive loading of the abdominals and fascia. Whilst pregnancy is not the cause of this separation, it can heighten existing underlying issues such as poor posture and over-intense exercise regimes.
Pilates can teach you how to engage your abdominals effectively, without bracing, to reduce the pressure that day-to-day life puts on your abdominal wall and help you to build strength at the right pace for your postnatal body. Exhaling reduces your IAP, when you can successfully coordinate your breath with movement, it will make a huge difference to how your abdominals function.
Pilates is universally known for helping to improve your posture. The alignment of your pelvis over your ankles, your ribcage over your pelvis, and your head over your ribcage all impact how well your core is able to function and postural exercises alone will make a difference.
Pilates isn’t just about a series of exercises. Pilates teaches you how to use your body beneficially on a day-to-day basis, and this movement has a huge impact on how effectively your core can function. By increasing awareness of your movement habits, improving your posture and developing your ability to control your IAP, you can make almost as much difference to your dysfunction as with Pilates exercises alone.
All of our postnatal classes can help with your abdominal separation. We have designed each class to ensure it only contains exercises that will assist your recovery, and we will always encourage you to work at your own pace and listen to your body.
When it comes to dysfunctions like Diastasis Recti, you are often warned against exercises such as sit-ups, but we will teach you that it isn’t about the exercise but about the level of control you have. If your abdominals ‘dome’ and push out when you do a sit-up, then this isn’t a good exercise for you. But plenty of people who don’t have a diastasis also dome, and it’s not a good exercise for them either.
We’re here to assure you that you don’t be scared to move and to use your body, you simply need to learn how to use it better.
With a better understanding of what your postnatal body needs, you can avoid pushing yourself into exercises and movements that won’t serve you well in the long term. And, as experts in this, we can confidently support you through making these important changes and bring you great results with our postnatal online classes!
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