Some wise words about diastasis recti (aka split abs) from Love & Lee friend Alecia Staines:
"Diastasis recti is caused by separation of the connective tissue along our “six-pack” muscles, down our midline. There are 4 groups of muscles that make up our abdominal muscles- transverse muscles (wrapping side to side, horizontally), internal and external obliques that run into our rectus abdominus (six-pack muscles). A diastasis can be significant for a postpartum woman for several reasons- we need some tension on the wall of our core to regulate our internal pressure; an necessary function of our diaphragm to pelvic floor function, weakness in our core can lead to back discomfort, and without a functional core; there will be muscle compensation, which can further create imbalance in our body and pelvic floor weakness.
A diastasis can be measured by the width (separation of the six-pack muscles) and depth (weakness of the inner-transverse muscles). Pregnancy is a time when the connective tissue becomes weakened and separates (this occurs for most women). Some women, this will fix itself, but for many, this will be ongoing, and without some intervention, can be a lifelong issue.
Some steps to help with a diastasis:
Firstly, until you get the steps 1-5 correct, avoid: planking, sit ups, burpees, plank-jacks, chataranga, cobra and similar poses that load the core.
However, it’s about regaining core function quickly, because spending too long avoiding certain poses, can create weakness, which is what you want to avoid.
Alignment. Not to be confused with posture. Your alignment is where you body should be in space- standing and in movement. Posture is how you are carrying yourself now. Often postpartum women will have an anterior or prosterior pelvic tilt, kyphosis (forward head posture) and tummy muscle separation (diastasis recti). Some simple mindfulness in how you carry your body will help correct your alignment and heal your diastasis recti.
Breathing. Many of us have a breathing pattern that is out of sync. We may breath shallow, or into our stomach, or our shoulder muscles may engage to help us breath (hello, shoulder pain!). Take a moment to connect with your breath. Take a nice, even , strong inhale. Ensure your ribs expand at the back, side and front. Carry that breath all the way down to your pelvic floor. Your pelvic floor will expand on the inhale, and contract back up on the exhale. Relearning breathing helps your overall function, whilst helping unnecessary pressure on your pelvic floor and core.
Engage and strengthen your transverse muscles. These wrap from side to side. And when we strengthen them, we can naturally reduce our gap of our diastasis recti, along with helping our breath by increasing the tension on our abdominal wall. If you imagine drawing your side around to your belly button, or that your hip bones are a book that you’re trying to close, this will help your transverse ab activation. You can squeeze and relax to help strengthen them, and also learn to engage them when you are lifting or starting exercises that require core loading.
Become acquainted with your pelvic floor. It’s a stabilising muscle that supports the base of our spine, our reproductive organs, along with having a role in a lot of other movements in our body. Yes, pelvic floor exercises can help strengthen a pelvic floor, but the above steps need to be taken into account too. Knowing how to breath down into your pelvic floor, then contract it on the exhale and engage your transverse muscles will help your diastasis AND avoid any additional pelvic floor strain."
If you’re keen to improve your tummy muscle separation, and want a fully mentored 4-week program, Alecia's Yoga for Diastasis Recti course is available.
It’s the steps Alecia used to heal her own diastasis after spending a long time with a hernia, lower back pain, pelvic floor weakness and tummy muscles separation.