*Always consult your doctor before beginning any exercise program*
You’ve just had a baby (for the first time or not), your whole world has been flipped upside now (in mostly good ways), and you barely recognize your body right now.
Regardless of your birth experience, your body (and brain) has been through a lot of trauma, and you should take at least a few weeks to rest and recover. Let your body heal, eat nourishing foods, bond with your baby, and please, let people help you around the house.
Each person’s birth and recovery will look different, so you cannot follow generalized timelines as to when you should be doing what, and definitely DO NOT compare your experience with anyone else’s! Early postpartum typically comes with a lot of new aches and pains, and tightness and weakness in places you’ve never felt before. Read this blog post about my tips for early postpartum. At whatever point you feel like your body needs a little movement, I’ve chosen some exercises that can be helpful in those early weeks.
I will never claim for any movement to be “diastasis safe” or “pelvic floor friendly”, as everyone has different needs. If you feel any discomfort at all doing any exercise, consult your doctor, and seek out help from a Pelvic Floor PT.
1. Breath Work – It is important to understand how breathing is connected to the core and pelvic floor. Basic breathing technique involves relaxing your abdominals & pelvic floor as you inhale, then gently contracting your abs and lifting your pelvic floor as you exhale. Check out this video for a more detailed explanation!
2. Tummy Time Breathing – Laying on the floor on your stomach, head supported with hands or a comfortable surface, arms and legs relaxed, focus on breathing. Think about inhaling “into the floor” (let stomach expand), and then contracting abdominals on your exhale. Do this for several minutes.
3. All Fours Rock – This is a great place to gently activate core stability, while also working the upper body (it’s a perfect progression for push-ups!). Begin on hands & knees, with hands under shoulders and knees under hips. Gently rock forward and back, moving with your breath, and increase your range of motion as you are able. Click here for video demonstration.
4. Bird Dog – Beginning in the same position as the All Fours Rock, slowly lift your opposite arm & leg off the ground and straight out. This can be much more challenging for the core, and requires balance, so the key is to move with your breath (lift as you exhale), and only lift as high as you can without disrupting your straight spine. If it’s too much of a challenge to lift both arm & leg at the same time, begin with just one arm at a time, followed by one leg at a time. Video here for reference!
5. Lying Marches – Here is a very gentle way to engage your abdominals and hip flexors. Laying flat on your back, knees bent & arms at your side, lift one leg off the floor while keeping your knee bent. Alternate legs (like a march) and move with your breath (exhale lift, inhale lower). Check out the video here.
6. Glute Bridges – Glute muscles (aka the booty) are important to strengthen to help with back pain. Bridges are a gentle way to engage the glutes, and can be easily progressed as you get stronger. Beginning in the same position as the Lying Marches, gently lift your hips to the ceiling until you feel your glutes work. Lift with your exhale, and lower with your inhale. If you feel pressure in your lower back, don’t lift your hips as high, and try to engage your abs by slightly pulling your rib cage down. Click here for video.
7. Kneeling Hip Hinge – The hip hinge is an important part of a lot of major exercises, such as squatting, lifting off the ground (deadlifts), swinging (kettlebells), jumping, and Olympic lifts (cleans & snatches). Beginning in the kneeling position is a gentle way to begin practicing this movement and training proper form. Start by sitting on your knees with the tops of your feet on the ground & your bottom on your heels. Moving with your breath, as you exhale, press your hips forward until you are fully extended in the tall kneeling position. Return to start as you inhale. Video here for demo.
8. Squats – One of the most basic movements of our every day lives, squatting can and should be incorporated early on (as long as it doesn’t cause pain). Squatting to a surface (chair, couch, bench, etc.) is helpful to support weakened and tight muscles. The higher the surface, the easier the movement will be. Make sure to keep your feet flat on the floor, and try to have your knees follow above your toes. Keep your back straight throughout the movement, and exhale as you stand. Click here for video!