By Erica Ziel, creator of the Core Rehab Program
I know you may be anticipating getting back to working out as soon as you can postpartum, but trust me on this when I say, “you don’t want to rush back into exercise too soon postpartum.” In those early postpartum weeks, it’s important to allow yourself time to rest, get all the baby snuggles in you can and allow your body time to heal. However, this does not mean you can’t do any movement. I want to share with you what you can begin doing, even in those first 24-48 hours after baby arrives.
I believe it’s important to start healing your body as soon as you can postpartum. You can easily do this through breathwork, visualization practices, and light movement. I need to be extremely clear that I’m not telling you to exercise. Rather, let’s shift our perspective to what our body is already doing in these early weeks postpartum.
The first thing I encourage you to start doing is to re-connect your breath to your deep core, including your pelvic floor. You probably won't feel much happening in those early days, but it’s still important to practice this while adding in visualization practice. If you had a cesarean birth, visualize your incision healing easily and quickly. If you had a vaginal birth, visualize your pelvic floor healing easily and quickly. Visualize what you want for your body, for your baby, and for your life right now with a newborn.
Here are 5 Early Postpartum Daily Practices:
#1 Try this breathing exercise to begin waking up your pelvic floor. You can do this sitting, standing or lying down. Practice it in all the different positions as you may find that one of them helps you awaken your pelvic floor more easily.
- Inhale through your nose breathing deep into your back and eventually all the way down into your pelvis. Take your time with your breath, avoid forcing it, and instead try visualizing where you want your breath to go.
- As you exhale visualize your pelvic floor as a diamond shape and gently draw the four points towards each other with a light zipping motion upward. Even visualize and try zipping all the way from your pelvic floor through the top of your head.
- Repeat, each time trying breathing a little deeper while connecting more gently.
#2 It's important to address your posture. When you are nursing, do your best to bring baby to you, while trying to sit as tall as you can. I encourage you to use pillows to help. When you are standing, holding your little one or standing doing anything, try to stand tall. Think about lightly activating your deep core (including your pelvic floor), avoid locking your knees and tucking your bum. This gives your back and body more support which can play a huge role in helping with back pain. Visualize yourself standing or sitting tall with that light breath exercise (above) to help connect your pelvic floor. Posture plays a vital role in helping to minimize aches and pains which is why it’s #2 on my list.
#3 Get outside (if the weather permits of course), strap your baby to you and go for walks. Even if you walk super slow and you don’t go very far. It’s not about how many steps you can get in, it’s about you getting fresh air and moving a little. Remember you are not exercising yet, this is just movement for your healing both physically and mentally.
#4 & #5 Begin doing gentle pelvic tilts and hip rolls on a daily basis. Through these very gentle movements, you will apply your breath exercise from above to encourage your deep core to wake up even more. Keep in mind these are very gentle, small range of motion movements.
Pelvic Tilts – Lay on your back with your feet flat on the floor. You should not feel any pressure in your hip flexors. If you do, try widening your legs a bit. Take a deep breath in, and on the exhale lightly connect your deep core and lengthen up through the top of your head. Remember, the connection in your pelvic floor should be light! If you can’t feel the connection, that is absolutely ok!! Visualize your pelvic floor lightly connecting and soon enough you will begin to feel it!
Hip Rolls – Lay on your back with your feet flat on the floor. Take a deep breath in and on the exhale, complete your pelvic tilt and then continue your movement by using your hamstrings and glutes to slowly peel your hips off the ground, one vertebrae at time (articulating your spine). You don’t want to go very high, because the goal is to awaken your pelvic floor and take the stress off your lower back. This inversion work allows gravity to take over and begins to slightly pull your pelvic floor in towards your body.
Healing your body is so much more than just your physical body, it’s also important to bring awareness to your mindset. This is why I find incorporating these tips early postpartum helps tremendously with how you feel physically, mentally and emotionally.
Once you have been cleared from your doctor to begin exercising again, you MUST continue the above tips and then start where you left off at the end of your pregnancy and slowly work back into exercise. Of course, there are going to be exercises where you can lay on your back and stomach that you were not able to do in your third trimester, but my point is, I don’t want you to just jump back to what you were doing pre-pregnancy. You really need to give your body more time to continue healing, while gradually building up to the exercise you want to do.
If you feel like you just can’t wait to go running, I’d encourage you to get in some good walks for several weeks to be sure your body is responding well and then slowly add in a little jogging to those walks, gradually building up. Keep in mind you still have the relaxin hormone in your body for a good six months postpartum. This means, your ligaments, and connective tissue can be more lax, leaving your body at a higher risk for injury and pelvic floor dysfunction that could otherwise be prevented when the right precautions are taken.
This is why we must be talking about this more and why I created Core Rehab, a step-by-step program to healing the body and learning how to prevent the many ailments so many women suffer in silence from, but truly do not need to.
It’s time to start talking about this and sharing this information with every single expecting and new mama.