Yoga breathing technique to protect
your core and pelvic floor in postpartum.
We all know how fragile our body is after giving birth, particularly our core and pelvic floor (PF) muscles. The breathing technique described below will help you to:
- Prevent further injury to your core and pelvic floor
- Further your awareness of your body movements
- Improve your mind and body connection
- Strengthening your core after having a baby
As mothers going through our day, we don’t realize just how much pressure we put on our body, in particular our core and pelvic floor muscles. Those strollers, car seats and bags of groceries are heavy! And we all know how fragile our core is after having a baby. Even years after giving birth, many moms still have challenges and symptoms.
So, what can we do to protect our core and PF on a daily basis?
Power of Breathing
There isn’t ONE answer to this question. As everyone’s symptoms and conditions are different, every person needs her individual approach for her full recovery plan. But there is one thing we can all do, and it’s also the simplest way to prevent injury and worsening our Diastasis Recti or PF disfunction.
It is breathing!
Breathing is the most important element; it is the basis of all the healthy movements and exercises for your body. Breathing while doing any physical activity (including just lifting those heavy strollers and car seats!) can prevent you from having troubles in the future and is your first step to strengthening your core after having a baby.
In my early postpartum I experienced almost unbearable pain and tightness in my pelvic muscles, to go along with my diastasis recti. I was doing some gentle restorative yoga but I was afraid to do any intense exercises in case it worsened my symptoms.
What I didn’t realize is that my daily movements, such as lifting my baby, pushing the stroller, lifting the car seat etc., was my “intense” lifting exercises I was doing it incorrectly which later worsened my symptoms, like extended hemorrhoids, further pain and sensation of bearing down in my Pelvic area.
When I started my journey to learn “everything Pelvic Health”, I then realised that my mistake was to avoid all the physical exercises. What I should have done (and I did later on) is to find specific exercises that target my postpartum conditions. I needed to learn how to adjust my body for daily life duties, or while exercising or postpartum yoga, in a way that wouldn’t harm my PF or core.
Below I will give you the basics of what we should do. But first, let’s briefly cover the basics of breathing anatomy so you can better visualize what’s going on.
The diaphragm is a dome-shaped muscle that sits below your lungs. The Pelvic Floor is the group of muscles that lay at the bottom of your Pelvic cavity. Diaphragm and PF muscles work together as a team to support breathing (in a healthy human).
So, when you are inhaling your diaphragm expands down and the PF expands down. When you are exhaling, your diaphragm comes up and so does your PF, so normally they are working in parallel together. What makes them work like that is the intra-abdominal pressure.
Now, imagine your body is going to bend and lift up a sac of groceries. This movement creates pressure on your core, and most likely you are holding your breath, which causes the intra-abdominal pressure to rise. This pushes down onto your pelvic muscles that are already trying so hard to hold everything there together. This can result in increased prolapse, hemorrhoids, pain and other PF dysfunctions.
So, it is absolutely vital for you, first of all, to not hold your breath and, second of all, exercise in line with your breath. (Which I’m explaining below).
Postpartum breathing technique in 3 steps
Let’s do this, ladies!
1. Constructive rest position.
Lay down on your back while Keeping your spine neutral and your breath normal. You can place your hand on your chest and another hand on your tummy. And just breath normally bringing attention to your sensations.
Feel how your breath travels from your throat to your chest, to your tummy and to your pelvic area. Take a few breaths to just feel the sensations.
2. Imagine that you have an elevator inside you.
Picture that elevator coming from the bottom of your pelvis by entering through your vagina and traveling all the way toward your chest. Imagine what sensations are following this elevator. At first just imagine it.
So, this elevator goes from the bottom to the top throughout your exhale. Just when you start exhaling, visualize this elevator inside you. It travels all the way up toward your chest. And then on your inhale, totally relax and let go of that elevator.
When inhaling, your tummy and PF muscles should be really soft and relaxed.
What I don’t want you to do is to “engage” or “tighten” your PF and core muscles while exhaling. But rather, just bring effort into that, activating it, without squeezing it. And on your inhale, you let everything go.
Also, remember to keep your spine neutral, and your jaw relaxed. Your whole body should feel that there is resistance, but it’s not working at full strength.
Please do not confuse this with a Kegel exercise. It’s similar but not the same as Kegel. This exercise is to help you to activate your pelvic and core muscles in order to perform your movement SAFELY.
3. Practice, practice, practice!
Once you practice this breathing exercise and master it, you can then do it while standing, or anytime you exercise or lifting those heavy strollers.
I want you to try and think about this technique whenever you are about to lift something heavy and eventually it will become automatic for you.
Remember, the key here is to always lift things on exhale.
Before lifting, tune in, take a couple of breaths, then bend your knees on the inhale, take your baby car-seat and start exhaling, with activating your PF and Core and then lift up.
Can this breathing technique help everyone with all problems in postpartum?
Of course, there is no ONE solution for everybody. There is no ONE medicine that can help to recover everybody. And so, this technique isn’t an exception. I’m confident that it can help most of the women to bring awareness to their core and all body movements to make them safe, however, it is not the ONLY solution to your problems in recovery.
And there are tonnes of other breathing exercises that are needed for your overall postpartum recovery and recovery of your core and PF. But in this article, I wanted to give you this technique as I feel that it’s the baseline, that can minimise the risk of injury. It’s like before we learn how to walk, we first need to learn that we have legs and they are for walking ;).
So here we learn that there is our breath (and we have intra-abdominal pressure inside) and we learn that this either works for us (when we do it properly) or it works against us.
So, to wrap it up. When lifting anything, doing any kind of physical exercises, you should:
- Keep breathing, never ever hold your breath.
- Activate your pelvic floor with breath
- Only lift on the exhale, (and keep in mind that elevator)
- Keep your pelvic floor and core active, but not over-tense
- Inhale, let it go.
- Keep your spine neutral and jaw and neck relaxed
And even if you had your baby 15 years ago, and you didn’t know that you can support your PF and improve your condition, you can still do it now. Better late than never!
So, this is your breathing technique to protect your core in postpartum that will train your PF to be attentive to your body and mind connection. And most importantly, will help you to prevent injury or worsening of any PF conditions in postpartum.
This technique is also your first step to strengthening your core after having a baby.
This simple breathing technique may be the most important exercise a mother can do after giving birth.
I hope this is helpful for you. Please don’t be shy and reach out if you have any questions. And if you want more info on how you can support your body in postpartum please sign up below, you will get a FREE guide for your postpartum healing and also monthly newsletter with tips on what to do to feel better after pregnancy.
Have a great day!