How many of you cringe at the thought of sneezing or coughing? Is jumping on the trampoline with your kids out of the question? Or are you dealing with hip or back pain, and nothing seems to be alleviating it completely?
There are many postpartum issues faced by women concerning their body. Some are immediately noticeable after giving birth (both naturally or by C-section), while in many cases it creeps up on us years later.
Perhaps, you’ve tried many avenues to deal with these issues, but nothing seems to be a sure fix.
It's quite possible you may not be getting to the source of the problem. Leaking, hip or back pain, poochy tummy, or pressure on the pelvic floor are all signs of core dysfunction.
To alleviate and eliminate core dysfunction we need to retrain our core from the inside-out.
No hard core ab training is going to fix the issues, because this only addresses the exterior muscles.
Our core is the stabilization centre of our body and responsible for all movement.
Therefore, we need to first create a mind-body connection to our internal core system and build strength within our core 4 team of muscles.
Let's look at the first 3 steps you need to take to start creating a mind-body connection and start rebuilding your core system:
STEP 1: Practice Core Breath
Core breath is the foundation of core movement and stabilization. It enables the core 4 team to work both in a synergistic (together as a team) and anticipatory (activates before you start moving) way. Core breath can be applied not only to daily movement, but is a MUST in exercise to ensure proper core stabilization.
Here's how you can check to see if you're breathing in an optimal way. Have a seat and look at yourself in the mirror. Take 3 deep breaths in. Notice if your body is moving when you inhale and exhale.
Too often we have subconsciously trained ourselves to breath shallow. This is where we breath into our chest and you’ll notice your shoulders rise up and down. Shallow breathing interferes with proper function of the core 4 team of muscles.
Core breath means breathing into your core. One way to achieve this is to place one had on your belly and one hand on your side rib cage. As you inhale, feel your belly and rib cage press into your hands. As you exhale, your belly will draw inward and your rib cage will relax.
Click here to learn more about core function with my Top 5 Core Facts Sheet - a summary of the most important things you need to know from my bestselling Kindle eBook, 'Finding Your Core Strength, What every woman needs to know'. Plus for extra core breath help, get access to my core breath ‘how-to’ video!
STEP 2: Learn Core Activation
Societies 'go-to' contraction for strengthening our pelvic floor is the kegel. While this is a great start, there are some limitations to this move.
For one, not every woman really understands how to perform a kegel correctly, and end up clenching their butt cheeks in the process. As well, kegels are an isometric exercise, meaning you’re simply doing the pelvic floor contraction and not applying it to movement.
Establishing a core cue phrase to help visualize the pelvic floor contraction helps women better apply it in movement.
Here are the top three visualization cue phrases that have worked with my clients:
- stop the flow of urine
- pick up a blueberry with your vagina
- your vagina is an elevator with 5 floors, take the elevator up 2 floors
When your pelvic floor contracts, it should feel like a bowl supporting the bottom half of your pelvis and is rising up. You should see no movement in your belly, other than breath.
Learning how to coordinate core breath and core activation is the most important first step, before applying it to movement.
Practice the following technique daily to establish a mind-body core connection:
- lie on your back
- bend your knees, placing your feet on the ground hip width apart
- place one hand on your belly and the other on the side of your rib cage
- close your eyes and connect with your body and the movement you’re about to feel
- on your inhale to expand, feel your rib cage and belly press into your hands
- purse your lips and gently exhale through your mouth
- while exhaling imagine you’re picking up a blueberry with your vagina, gentle enough so as not to crush it
- you’ll still feel the ribs soften and belly draw inwards
- as you inhale release the blueberry
- continue to be aware of your breath but don’t force it
STEP 3: Become Mindful of Your Posture
In order for your core 4 team of muscles to work together efficiently, they must be in proper alignment.
Too often our core dysfunction issues arise from poor posture, particularly because we are supporting our body on our hip and knee joints.
Establishing proper posture requires a functionally, strong internal core system.
To establish proper posture, start bringing it into your awareness. Check in with your posture throughout the day, both when seating and standing.
Here are adjustments you can start making right now while standing:
- Chin should be parallel to the floor
- Mid-line of your ear should line up with your shoulders
- Shoulders should be aligned with your hips
- Hips aligned with ankles
- From the front, your ears, shoulders and hips should be even
- Knees slightly unlocked
- Even weight distribution throughout your feet (heels, base of big toe and base of baby toe should all feel the weight)
Click here to get a copy of my Top 5 Core Facts Sheet and learn more about how to correct your posture with my 'how-to' posture and core breath videos!
We need to start re-training our brain on how we think about core health. Taking these 3 steps will start you along a path of creating a functional strong internal core system, and send you along the path to an overall strong, stable and defined body.