Having had three child births and worked in an orthopedic hospital for seven years, I’ve witnessed firsthand the discrepancies between how women are treated during postpartum recovery versus the way someone is treated post tissue or ligament repair. But here’s the thing: Both having a child, either vaginally or through a C-section, and orthopedic surgery are traumas. So why do we treat them so differently?
After I had my children, I did not see a physical therapist. I did not learn how to move again. I did not have someone holding my hand every week guiding me through my recovery—all of which are things my husband (whom I love) received when he had his ACL reconstruction.
There wasn’t anyone telling me what to avoid, how to re-educate my core, or what to do if I still hurt. By contrast, my husband was treated three times per week by a PT for the first two months. He had homework, guided exercise, activity modifications, and was taught how to walk again. Then, he was seen two times a week for three more months in order to learn how to go up and down stairs, run, and scale exercise or activities as needed. In other words, he was guided and nurtured back to himself, and we need to do the same for new moms.
So often, all the attention in those first several weeks postpartum is directed toward the adorable babe, and we need to shift some of that focus on to the person who’s just brought them into the world so that they can get back to themselves. In particular, core restoration should be an integral part of any postpartum recovery.
3 ways to start your postpartum rehab
1. Focus on your standing posture
Even though you’re not pregnant anymore, it is really hard NOT to stand like you still are. Standing in pregnancy posture, aka, sway back, where our front ribs are flaring open and our pelvis is pushed forward actually makes it harder for our core, pelvic floor, and breath to rehab post birth. Instead, as soon as you can, start stacking your posture. Do this by standing with your rib cage over your hips, gently use your hands to soften the front of the rib cage down slightly, and guide the front of the pelvis up slightly. Then breathe, inhale into the back of the rib cage, imaging it widen, exhale and try to keep that new width. Try to let all belly and pelvic floor tension completely go in this posture.
2. Lose the waddle walk ASAP
Instead, walk heel to toe, striking in the center of your heel and rolling over your big toe. Shorter steps are better than longer ones.
3. Jellyfish breath mindfulness practice
Use this visualization to practice engaging both your diaphragm and your pelvic floor engaging both your diaphragm and your pelvic floor while breathing. Start sitting in a chair in front of a mirror so you can check your form. Then rock your pelvis forward and back to find a neutral position with a slight tilt of your tailbone up and back. Lean your torso forward at 45 degrees so that your rib cage is over your pelvis.
Now breath, imagining that your low ribs are expanding front, back, and out to both sides, while your pelvic floor widens, as you inhale. Picture a jellyfish spreading out in all directions as it swims, then take your time to center yourself. Check out our Jellyfish Meditation practice that is part of our Core Restoration Class Series.
What a mind-body-spirit rehab of the core means—and why it’s important
This is the only way we approach core rehab (or any rehab) as our aim is to support the whole person in their movement and lives through physiyoga. We do this because trying to restore your core without integrating your mind and spirit is like trying to build a home without a blueprint, cement, and nails.
Translation? It’s haphazard, and it isn’t sustainable. The mental and spiritual parts of us are the guides and the glue that hold our core rehab together. We’re whole beings—not just body parts.
From a physiological standpoint, our mind controls our body because our brain sends signals to our muscles to move. But stress can change how the brain and body speak. When we aren’t in fight, flight, or freeze states from stress responses, the mind will send signals to our muscles for optimal, efficient movement.
If we’re under stress, feeling disconnected, or anxious, however, our mind has a harder time sending signals to our muscles to contract well. For example, if you’re experiencing prolonged stress in your life about your kids, you may be in fight or flight mode. Your brain will send signals to your muscles to contract in response to that perceived threat, which could mean a big signal to contract your core and back with a lot of tone and tension. This isn’t functional or helpful, unfortunately.
So what to do?
The short answer is: Manage the stress. This is where spirit comes in. Can you find joy? Meaning? A larger view of yourself? If so, this can help manage stress, which helps the brain out of fight or flight. In turn, it can send clearer, less high-tone contract signals to your muscles.
Additionally, when our spirit is supported, and our mind is not in fight, flight, or freeze modes, we can do the following:
- Make new movement patterns
- Breathe more ease fully and efficiently
- Learn how to do this over and over again
Bottomline: Building a deep mind, body, spirit connection to your core is the blueprint, guide, and glue you need to keep it integrated. This is vital for postpartum recovery, as well as long-term change in how your core works.