You Can Begin Healing Diastasis Recti with Posture and Breath!
Now that you have learned what diastasis recti is and determined whether you have it and to what degree (check out this video if you have not), you can adopt practices for healing it. In this blog post and accompanying video, you will establish the correct alignment of the head, ribs, and pelvis to encourage the two sides of the abdominal sheath to knit together.
1. Start by sitting comfortably on the edge of a chair with both feet on the floor. Don’t sit back as most chairs have curved back supports that encourage slumping. Feel your sitting bones evenly balanced on the seat of the chair. Feel that your lower belly is as long as your lower back, meaning your tailbone isn’t pointing back so far that your lower back is shorter and your belly is protruding forward. On the other hand, don’t let your tailbone point forward with your lower back rounded out and your belly slumped inward. Instead, strongly rise out of your pelvis, with your lower back keeping its natural curve and your lower belly gently engaged from this balanced support. Feel as if this lift of the spine comes because you feel like you’re floating through the crown of the head. Next, bring your awareness to your ribs. Notice if your lower ribs are vertically aligned with your upper ribs. In other words, don’t flare out the lower ribs! [See Katy Bowman’s book Diastasis Recti (Propriometrics Press, 2016] for a comprehensive look at diastasis recti with many movement practices to work toward healing it. She cautions about “lower rib flare” throughout her book.]
2. Instead, place one hand on the lower ribs and the other on the upper ribs by the collar bones. You may feel the lower hand further out than the upper hand if you’re sticking out your lower ribs. If that is happening, lift your upper ribs up and forward a bit while drawing in your lower ribs and your back. To facilitate this lift requires engaging your deep core muscles. You will likely feel long in the torso and may even feel a release in the lower and middle back. You may also feel the lower back muscles soften as they come into proper positioning while you discover the appropriate positioning of your pelvis.
3. Last, feel the positioning of your head as if you’re floating through the crown at the very top of the skull. Feel that the back of your neck is as long as the front of your throat, putting your ears in line with the middle of the tops of your shoulders. When you have optimal posture and a balanced relationship of your pelvis, ribs, and head, you should feel strong throughout your body yet with a floating sensation.
To sustain the optimal alignment of your ribs, pelvis, and head in daily life, sit upright when you’re in the car and don’t slump in the bucket seat designs most cars have. Also resist the temptation to slouch on the sofa while relaxing or nursing the baby. Instead, bring your baby to your breast and roll your shoulders back and down rather than rounding yourself forward.
Now that you’ve established optimal posture while seated, carry this over to standing.
1. As you rise out of the chair, notice what happens to the positioning of your pelvis, ribs, and head. Are they aligned? Now that you know the correct relationship of these parts, you can “build” yourself from the feet up. At the same time, evenly distribute your weight to the front, back, and sides of your feet.
2. Next, keep your knees soft (not locked) and align your pelvis such that your lower back feels as long as your lower belly. Then align your ribs appropriately so your lower ribs do not stick out and shorten your middle back.
3. Last, float through the crown of your head so your ears are in line with the tops of your shoulders. Make sure the back of your neck and front of the throat are of equal length to each other.
Birthday Candle Breath
Using your breath awareness and healthy posture, let’s do a focused breathing exercise called Birthday Candle Breath that tones your transverse abdominus (see my post on restoring a weak core here to learn about this muscle).
1. Start by sitting either in a chair or on a thick folded blanket. Feel your pelvis in a neutral position and your ribs stacked, with the lowest ribs in line with your upper ribs. Place one hand on your upper belly and the other on your collarbones to feel if they are in line with each other.
2. Inhale into your belly, ribs, and back. Then exhale through your mouth with your lips in the shape of the smallest circle you can comfortably make—about the size of the tip of your pinky finger as if you are saying “who.” It’s like blowing out a birthday candle three feet away with one focused stream of breath. Do not forcefully push the breath; keep it steady from the beginning of the exhalation to the end.
3. Once your lungs feel emptied, pulse the exhalation five times (knowing there’s always a small reserve of air in the lungs at the base of an exhalation). You’ll feel as if you have a corset on and someone is making the waist a bit smaller with each exhaled puff of air. You will feel an engagement of your lower belly in and up toward the back of your lower ribs. (This is not the same as sucking in your belly. Rather, it’s like a zipper effect in which the lower belly is engaged in and upward. It activates the lower part of the transverse abdominus.)
4. Fully relax your abdomen on the inhalation. Do this series five times.
5. Next, exhale on an S consonant as if you are a hissing snake (not a forceful snake but a friendly one!). Repeat on three more breaths.
Over time, as the S consonant gets easier, graduate to an F consonant and explore this sound until you feel it is steady and consistent from the beginning of the exhalation to the end. Next, explore a Z consonant as if you are a buzzing bee (not a forceful bee but a friendly one!). Again, keep the sound consistent from the beginning of the exhalation to the end. The more friction the sound has, the more your transverse abdominus hugs in to stabilize while you sustain the quality of the sound from the beginning of the exhalation to the end.