Diastasis Recti & Yoga: Are You Hurting Your Core?

February 16, 2022
Yoga & Diastasis Recti | Every Mother

A Q&A with Every Mother founder Leah Keller and Certified Yoga Instructor Aylin

There’s no question that yoga is beneficial for the mind and body, and practiced by a large population worldwide. However, not all yoga is created equal: Did you know that certain yoga moves could actually be harmful to those with existing physical conditions such as diastasis recti? In fact, incidents of yoga-induced injuries have grown significantly in the past decade, from reports of muscle damage and torn cartilage to risks of exacerbating other conditions. Every Mother founder Leah Keller and Every Mother instructor Aylin answer some questions about why the type of yoga you practice makes a big physical difference long-term.

1. Why is there a need for diastasis recti-specific yoga?

Many movements and postures in classical yoga (and in other practices, including traditional fitness exercises and Pilates) can actually cause or exacerbate abdominal separation, also called diastasis recti. These movements fall into one of two categories: Either it exerts a forward, forceful pressure on the abdominal wall, (boat pose, for example) or the posture thrusts the lower ribs forward, drawing the upper abdominal muscles away from the midline (like many chest openers, including full cobra, upward dog, and wheel pose).

Whether the stress is caused by a forward forceful pressure on the abdominal wall or from rib-thrusting, all of these movements strain the linea alba, the connective tissue that runs vertically along the midline. As that connective tissue becomes overstretched, it loses integrity and the distance between the rectus abdominis muscles increases, compromising core strength, function, and stability.

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

While some moves should be avoided entirely, others can simply be modified to make them safe. I avoid making lists of never/always because doing so can create a false sense of security that certain poses might theoretically be safe some of the time are safe for everyone, all the time. Instead, I prefer to empower people with two essential questions they can ask themselves as a self-check while practicing yoga (or performing any category of movement):

  1. Can I do this movement or hold this posture while keeping my navel firmly engaged toward the spine? If not, the movement needs to be modified or skipped.
  2. When I perform this movement, are my lower ribs thrusting forward and/or splaying apart? If so, can I decrease my range of motion such that I can anchor my ribs in neutral?

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

Our *EMbody yoga sequences help members feel at ease in their bodies, safely expanding the range and categories of movement they can enjoy through our app while recovering from diastasis recti. Many members have expressed gratitude for the opportunity to truly relax into a yoga sequence designed and coached to avoid exacerbating diastasis recti, a welcome relief from the vigilance required when attending a typical yoga class. Even many prenatal and postpartum yoga classes include postures that threaten the health and integrity of the abdominal wall.

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4. Can yoga solve diastasis recti on its own?

There is no evidence that yoga, on its own, can heal or resolve diastasis recti. We have curated and modified classical yoga postures and created sequences that avoid stressing the linea alba while encouraging healthy engagement of the deep core muscles. We see EMbody yoga as an addition to our evidence-based therapeutic exercise program, but not a replacement for Every Mother’s foundational exercises and workouts proven to resolve diastasis recti.

5. How are some of these yoga poses modified to be diastasis recti-specific?

We’ve modified pose progressions like “side plank” into “wild thing” by keeping the ribs closed and stretching the body laterally rather than back-bending. We also emphasized strength through the core and length through the spine, as well as lateral movement and twists in lieu of the common back-bending.

Aylin began her serious study and practice of yoga in 2002 in the Anusara tradition (alignment focused, heart-centered flow), and has over 500 hours of training. In 2018 she received her Pilates certification through A Body Of Work in San Francisco, CA.

Aylin teaches a strong core-based, breath-focused practice that is intended to support, encourage, and challenge. She has worked a great deal with injuries and has taught a wide range of clients, from pro athletes to geriatric patients. She loves the variety of the human experience that yoga speaks to, and is fascinated by movement and the capacity of the human body to adapt to life's circumstances. She believes a regular yoga practice can bring us greater ease in our bodies and teach us to live life with clarity and balance.

Every Mother unlocks a scientifically proven method to strengthen the body during pregnancy and rebuild it after birth, regardless of how long it has been since you became a mother. We’re a knowledge circle, a community, and a celebration— of the mother you’ve become, and the woman you’ve been all along. Learn more about the EMbody Programhere.