How to cinch your abs back with Pilates after pregnancy.
I think we will all agree that diastasis is a scary-sounding word. Learning what it actually is might be even more overwhelming. The thing is, though, it’s so common and manageable, and there are exercises that can help knit the situation back together, so to speak.
So here’s what we’re looking at: Diastasis recti is when the rectus abdominals separate into right and left halves. This condition is common in pregnant women because the abdominals stretch as the uterus grows. Diastasis occurs in some women, while other women will not experience it at all. Most commonly it will appear toward the final stretch of pregnancy, as a result of the front-loading and pull from the weight of the baby. A physical sign of this condition is if there is a ridge bulging down the center of the abdominal area. If you are pregnant and notice this, have your OB/GYN check it out, but don’t let yourself panic—it’s perfectly normal and safe.
Although there is no treatment per se for diastasis during pregnancy, have no fear! Post-pregnancy, there are ways to cinch those abs back up. Exercise is the safest and healthiest way, and absolutely recommended over any more drastic actions, such as a tummy tuck. If you commit to strengthening and tightening your abdominals back up, you can get back in that swimsuit sooner than you might think.
After childbirth, the diastasis will narrow naturally. In some cases, though, there can be a looseness, or pooch, to the abdominal area that needs a little TLC in case it doesn’t continue to tighten.
A common practice throughout parts of the world has traditionally been to wear a wrap around the midsection. This will help with lower-back pain and some level of tightening. It will not give you that six-pack that you are dreaming about. Believe me, if it did, I’d be wearing a wrap at this very moment.
Nothing can replace proper, effective exercise.
With that in mind, here are a few Pilates exercises you can easily do at home to start the process!
What you’ll need: A mat or a carpeted area, a bath towel and the confidence to know your body can do and will do what you ask of it. A strong body comes from the will of a strong mind!
Find your abdominals
Setup: Begin by lying flat on a mat or the carpet.
1. Take a deep inhale. As you exhale, deepen your abdominals in and up along your spine. Hold for a few seconds to feel those transverse abdominals engage. Repeat 5 times.
Tips: Imagine that you are scooping your abdominals in, or tightening a corset around your waist. This is awakening the deepest layer, the transverse abdominals. This is the layer that will be both the hardest to feel after pregnancy and the most crucial in the waist-cinching process. Always spend a few minutes a day practicing this movement. Soon, your muscle memory will remember the activation of these muscles and begin to work for you. Remember, it’s not about tucking the tailbone or trying to flatten the small of your back. You simply want to deepen and tighten the abs in and around your waist, not lose the natural curve of your spine.
The Half Roll-Down
Setup: Sit up tall with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Hold on lightly behind your thighs.
1. Take a deep inhale and then exhale as you round your spine back toward the floor until your arms are straight. Hold for a moment and deepen your abdominals in and up, just you like started with the first exercise.
2. Inhale, round back forward, keeping that deep scoop.
3. Exhale, sit tall with a straight spine. Do 6 repetitions..
Tips: Make sure your head is not tilting too far down toward your chest or back toward the ceiling. You want a lifted spine, and that should continue all the way up to the top of your head. I suggest gazing toward the top of your knees.
Modifications: If it hurts your tailbone to sit on the carpet or a flat mat, roll up a mat and sit on top of it. That will give you some extra cushion. If you feel any of this in your lower back, hook your feet under a solid surface, such as a couch for the duration of the exercise.
Setup: Lie flat on your back.
1. Curl your head and chest up and stack your hands, palm over palm, at the nape of your neck. Extend your legs up to the ceiling.
2. Lower your legs to a 45 degree angle, then slowly lift back up to the ceiling. Do 8 repetitions.
Tips: Make sure your head and chest are curled up high and you are pulling your abdominals in like when we started. The abs after diastasis don’t want to listen and engage. Your back and neck would much rather take over and do the work. The more you scoop your abs in, the more they are working and the less your back has to!
Modifications: If you feel this in your back, and deepening your abs doesn’t do the trick, place your hands just under the small of your back. Stack them slightly, palm over palm. Your fingertips should just be peeking out. This will help support your lower back.
Setup: Lie flat on the floor or mat, knees bent and feet flat. Hold on to either end of your bath towel, or just wider than shoulder-width apart. Let the towel hover right above your navel.
1. Slowly begin to slide the bath towel up your thighs and toward your knees. Hold at the top to see if you can get your abdominals in even deeper, then slowly roll back down to lie flat. Do 10 repetitions.
Tips: Make sure even before you move that you’ve got the deep scoop and corseting feeling in your abs. Engaging them even without movement is working them. As you move, keep them deep so we build them. The most crucial time is as you lower. Roll down through each vertebra as you scoop in.
Modification: Place your hands behind your head to support your head and neck if it is too much right now.
Advanced: At the very top of the move, twist to one side. Come back center, staying curled up. Twist to the other side, then come back center. Roll down to lie flat. Do the exercise with the twists at the top for all 10 reps. This will add the tightening of the waist at an even deeper level by adding the obliques in.