Building up core strength after having a baby, takes time and takes awareness. I’ve had two kids, and at the time of writing this my youngest is turning one in a few days. I am still building up my core strength to where I'd like it to be, and I have also released myself from the mindset of bouncing back. What the heck am I bouncing back to? A body that never grew, birthed and fed babies? No thanks. I will keep my scars and I will keep my enhanced body awareness gained from that experience. I encourage you to embrace this mindset as well as you begin to bring strength back into your centre. Once we release ourselves from expectation, we enable ourselves to create confidence from the core of our being.
To help postnatal mamas create core strength, I’ve broken down the strength training into stages with daily exercises in each stage. Before we go any further though, let's take a moment to praise the physical therapists, specifically those focused on women’s health (praise hands). They are the experts in aiding mother’s to create core strength, yoga is just one of their many tools. With that being said, please ensure that you have consulted a physio after your birth experience, and work with them to create a plan tailored to you.
Stage 1: 1st day post birth - 2 months
The focus in this stage is all about pelvic floor awareness and assessing any abdominal separation. Pregnancy and birth will be a determining factor in your pelvic floor strength as well as your degree of ab separation; your physio can provide an assessment of each of these in the days following birth. This information forms the base of how you will enter back into any any fitness regime.
It’s important to note that ab separation from pregnancy is NORMAL. You grew a baby in that belly after all, so some room had to be made. When a woman has more than 2 finger widths of separation between her abs, that is when the diagnosis of Diastasis Recti is given and special care is needed. However, many women do have a degree of separation and if it is not exacerbated this separation can naturally heal back to a finger width or less.
Pelvic Floor exercises can begin the day after birth. (I've read you can begin the day of birth, but seriously get out of here with that and give me all the new baby cuddles.) No matter the type of birth you had (vaginal or belly birth) you had a baby weight bearing down on your pelvis for the better part of 40 weeks. You will have to work to bring awareness back into the mulah bundah, aka pelvic floor.
Stage 1 Daily Pelvic Floor Exercises:
Quick Activations x 5 - 10
Inhale fully relax pelvic floor | Exhale lift and squeeze all 4 corners of floor together
Stop the exercise when you’re no longer able to lift the pelvic floor. The area is tired and needs rest. Come back to this exercise tomorrow and try adding one more rep than the day before.
1/3 Breath x 3 - 5
Inhale fully relax belly and pelvic floor | Exhale 1/3 of your breath out and lift your pelvic floor 1/3 of the way up. Exhale 2/3 of your breath out and lift your pelvic floor up 1/3 more. Exhale release all of your air and fully activate your pelvic floor. Relax for a full round of breath, then repeat.
Cat/Cow x 5
Inhale for a very mild chest opener in cow as you relax the belly and the pelvic floor | Exhale for cat back as you activate the pelvic floor and scoop the belly up to close off space between the sternum and pubic bone.
It's important to keep the backbend in cow to a minimum (similar to prenatal yoga) as not to exacerbate any ab separation.
Bonus: this a great baby feeding counter pose.
These can be around the house, around your yard, down your street. Walking helps the internal organs return back to their intended place and encourages the body to reform muscle memory back around the pelvic floor.
Build up your strength and stamina each day. It took me 6 weeks to make it to the end of my street following the birth of my first child…it was a hilly street
You can find each of these exercises (well, not the walking) inside the Class Library via:
Postnatal Core Work Step 1
Connect Back to You
Stage 2: Abdominal separation and/or scars are healed; bleeding has stopped.
Once your abs have knitted back to 1 finger width or less and you’ve been cleared by your physio to get back on the mat, you’ve graduated to stage 2! Now it’s time to rebuild core stability through strengthening the deeper layers of the core: the transverse abdominus, rectus abdominus, and of course our favourite pelvic floor.
A mix of yoga and pilates core strengthening techniques is best, so that you can tap into the deeper layers of the core while keeping awareness of your body. Remember you are building strength. You are not going to pop onto your mat on day 2 of stage 2 and bust out a crow pose then jump back into a plank pose. Building strength takes time and requires tuning into the body's cues. If you start to feel any burning in your belly, stop. If you’re shaking in a pose, that’s ok. Keep your breath pumping, keep your alignment in check and keep coming back to the mat. One day you will hold those arm balances again, I promise, but you’ve gotta start here.
Stage 2 Daily Core Exercises:
Planks x 5 - 10 rounds of breaths
Start in a modified plank, with knees down slightly behind your hips and heels lifted. Work up to 10 breaths in modified plank, then you’re ready for full plank pose! Work up to 10 breaths in full plank.
Tip: Hug the inner thighs together while slightly rolling them up towards the sky to help activate the pelvic floor.
Chair squats with a block x 10
With feet hip width, place a block between your thighs. Squeezing onto the block find a squat on the exhale | Inhale back to standing. You decide your arm placement: heart space, framing face or parallel to ground
Pelvic tilts x 10
Starting in a bridge position, squeezing a block between the thighs. Inhale, neutral pelvis and back | Exhale tilt pelvis up to sternum as you round the lower back.
Squeeze onto the block throughout the duration of this exercise
Bridge lifts x 10
Expanding on the pelvic tilts, as you exhale tilt the pelvis and then life the hips up high |Inhale, back onto the mat and into neutral spine.
Squeeze onto the block throughout the duration of this exercise
You can find each of these exercises and more in the Postnatal Core Work Step 2 class inside the Class Library.
Once you’ve mastered these daily exercises, I’d say you’re really back in action mama! Postnatal Yoga is great at assisting mamas to mindfully build strength, and an updogyogamamas.com membership makes it easy to keep yoga in your daily routine. Remember to consult your physio when things aren’t quite feeling right, and remember you can always reach out to me too!
The Updog Yoga Mamas intention is to provide a way for mamas to bring yoga into their daily routine without complication. To empower mamas to acknowledge their energy and their families energy each day, and then select the best practice for that day. Whether it be a 10 minute grounding meditation to balance out the emotional rollercoaster of motherhood, a 30 minute gentle yin to restore the body after a sleepless night or a 45 minute power flow to energise the body and mind - mamas now have the choice to cater their daily practice to suit their needs. Join now >