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Mummy Tummy: Postnatal Barre and Diastasis Recti

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If you are searching for a safe and effective workout regime to get you back to that pre-baby bod, we’ve got what you need! As a workout catered specifically to women, barre can be mindfully modified to be the absolute best prenatal and postnatal exercise for all of the hot mommas out there. Because of the low impact nature and small, isolated nature of the movements, barre offers a safe and fun option for expecting mothers and new moms to keep up with their fitness routine.

Today on the blog we are going to focus specifically on barre as both, postnatal fitness and rehabilitation for diastasis rectus. At BBS we value fitness as a lifestyle, which mean ensuring the flexibility to support you through all stages of life, including the creation of new life! Once baby is born, your body has gone through all sorts of structural and hormonal changes and we understand that reintroducing exercise back into your routine can be extremely intimidating. We encourage you to start off slow, always do what you are comfortable with and speak with a professional before working out. (Your doctor and your instructor should be your go to!) We offer Baby Barre classes that ensure low-impact movements, proper core bracing, and many rehabilitative exercises for the pelvic floor, however, our Barre Body Fit classes can easily be adapted to accommodate any client that is postnatal!

Okay, so all is well and good … but what if I have Diastasis Recti? What effect does this have on my fitness routine?

Diastasis recti, or abdominal separation, is common among postpartum women. This is typically defined as a separation (approximately 2.7cm or greater) between the two sides of the rectus abdominis muscle, less scientifically known as your abs. This is typical in postpartum and pregnant women because as your uterus grows during pregnancy, the rectus abominis stretches (and even more so when you are expecting more than one!) Also note that this condition can be stimulated by pregnancy because it is ultimately a build up of pressure. It is not necessarily caused by pregnancy, diastasis recti can occur in men, children, and women who are not pregnant as well.

Now that you know what it is and how it’s caused, we will get into how to check for it. You can check for ab separation right at home.

1)   Lie on your back on a flat, hard surface and place your feet flat on the floor. Take a few deep breaths to settle your abdominal muscles.
2)   Place your fingers right above your belly button and push deep into the abdomen.
3)   Gently lift your head and shoulders to contract the abdominal muscles.
4)   If you can physically feel a gap, that is your abdominals separated. From there you can test the width of separation based on how many fingers can fit into that gap.
5)   Repeat this process with your fingers just below the belly button, as separation can take place here as well. 

First and foremost, if you do discover any separation between the abdominal muscles consult a doctor. In some cases, minor separation can be resolved simply at home but for more sever cases, physiotherapy may be a better option. However, if your diastasis recti is not surgical, it will typically be repaired through movement and core strengthening. Remember that your abdominal muscles are in a vulnerable state postpartum, so it is important to start slow and take small steps towards recovery. Here are some tips that we have as you begin to repair separation:

· Use breathing techniques to engage and strengthen the transverse abdominals.
· Focus on improving your overall posture, sitting and standing. Always think about lifting tall through the top of your head and maintain a neutral spine and pelvis. Barre does fantastic work for your posture, take the alignment tips from your BBS class and apply those to everyday things!
· Perform all movements in your barre class with deep core activation. Zip up through the lower belly, breath into the side body and back of the rib cage.
· Exercises such as bird-dog, pelvic tucks, cat-cow, glute bridge, and fold overs are all safe and effective ways to brace and strengthen the core.

 With the list of YES exercises, we’ve also got some no-no’s as well! Stay away from crunches and sit-ups to avoid overworking the muscle and worsening the separation. Crunching from flat back or with the ball behind your shoulder blades should be avoided. In a barre class, you can replace any crunch exercises with level 1 abs (the ball underneath the tailbone). Remember that if at anytime you are looking for an alternative exercise to do in class, your instructor will be more than happy to help you out!

(Note: Plank is an exercise that may be okay near the end of your healing process. Listen to your body because it will be a little bit different for everyone in this position.)

In closing, we would like to remind all of our barre mommas, that ab separation is not permanent and it is SO common. Mummy tummy is one of the joys (yup, we called it a joy) that comes along with that sweet little babe! With the glorification and praise of the dad bod, we’re going to let you in on a secret … the real victory here is the mom bod: strong, powerful, and you look damn good too!

XO, 

Barre Body Studio - Edmonton

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