Diastasis Recti & Pilates: Are You Hurting Your Core?

A Q&A with Every Mother founder, Leah Keller, and EM Pilates and Yoga instructor, Aylin Guvenc, on diastasis recti-safe Pilates. 

Pilates has long been touted as a low-impact exercise that tones the entire body while improving core strength, flexibility, and posture. But what if we told you that certain Pilates poses could be harmful to your core and worsen or even induce abdominal separation? Keep reading to find out what sets EMbody Pilates apart from traditional Pilates, and why our expert modifications can provide you with the same results while also helping you resolve diastasis recti and maintain core strength and function. 

1. Why is there a need for diastasis recti-safe Pilates?

Leah: While a Pilates practice offers numerous appealing benefits, such as enhanced core strength, many of its exercises can cause or exacerbate diastasis recti (also called abdominal separation). This is because they increase intra-abdominal pressure, exerting unhealthy mechanical stress on the connective tissue that runs along the midline of the abdomen. Forceful and repetitive pressure causes the tissue to weaken and overstretch, widening the gap between the two halves of the rectus abdominis. A widened waistline and protruding abdomen are common symptoms of diastasis recti, but DR is not merely cosmetic. The condition carries real health implications because it compromises core function and stability, contributing to back pain, incontinence, pelvic pain, and core weakness. 

2. What Pilates moves should you avoid when resolving diastasis recti?

Leah & Aylin: Anything that lifts both shoulders off the ground from a supine (back lying) position should be skipped. And any exercise that causes your abdomen to bulge or brace forward forcefully (as opposed to drawing the navel toward the spine while exhaling on exertion) needs to be skipped or modified to avoid the range of motion where you cannot avoid the forward pressure. Examples of Pilates exercises (by no means an exhaustive list) that require modification to make them safe for diastasis recti include:

  • Hundreds
  • Roll Up
  • Roll Over
  • Double Leg Stretch
  • Teaser (all 3 variations)
  • Criss Cross 
  • Double Straight Leg Stretch 
  • Corkscrew
  • Jack Knife 
  • Swan Dive
  • Hip Circles
  • Swimming
  • Boomerang 
  • Rocking (on the belly)

3. How does Pilates complement Every Mother’s workout programs? 

Leah: EMbody Pilates offers members who miss their Pilates practice a new approach to familiar exercises. It delivers the same core stability and global health benefits while protecting the connective tissue that traditional Pilates exercises can compromise. EMbody Pilates also further expands the workout variety available through our Every Mother app.

4. Can Pilates solve diastasis recti on its own?

Leah & Aylin: Pilates utilizes a foundational technique similar to Core Compressions, essentially drawing the navel back to the spine on exertion and engaging the transverse abdominals (your natural corset). And as long as you are doing diastasis recti-safe exercises with regularity, they can be effective. That said, many Pilates exercises (see the above list) bulge the abdominal muscles forward, making a Core Compression impossible. This can cause or exacerbate diastasis recti. So without extensive knowledge to curate and modify Pilates exercises, they easily worsen DR instead of healing it. This is why we are so excited to bring you EMbody Pilates, our fresh take on a traditional practice to eliminate the guesswork for you.

5. How are Pilates poses modified to be diastasis recti safe?

Aylin: With EMbody Pilates, we tried to take elements of unsafe movements and manipulate them to be core-safe while still serving the purpose of the original exercise. We modified exercises that took both legs and torso off of the ground simultaneously and incorporated props, such as a foam roller, or supported ourselves with our hands behind our thighs. We modified moves such as Hundreds by turning them upright and transforming them into breathing exercises or by keeping them closer to the ground with more controlled movement. We also universally kept one hand on the belly to feel the drawing in and up of the abdominals, and we used double and triple exhales to promote the scooping of the belly and engagement of the abdominals. 


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