3 Strength-Building Movements and More Pelvic Floor Tools for New Mothers
Take a lap around goop.com and odds are you’ll find an enthusiastic pelvic floor headline: unlocking its secrets, harnessing its powers for enjoyable sex, etc. We’re also enthusiastic about physical therapist Allison Oswald, who educates people who have birthed children or wish to someday on the inner core system. This encompasses the pelvic floor, diaphragm, and the deep abdominal muscles. Oswald is also a parent three times over, making her knowledge of this intricate, oft-neglected intersection of muscles an intimate one. Pelvic floor work, which Oswald does via virtual sessions and at-home visits (on hold for now), is particularly pertinent postpartum. “I have found that creating a connection early on to one’s postpartum body is hugely supportive to the healing process, both physically and emotionally,” she says.
The three exercises below (and the core-engaging breath that fuels them) are meant to serve people who have given birth by either vaginal or Cesarean delivery. These practices are restorative and should never cause pain, so start slow. “Get a good handle on the Core Connect Breath first, then layer in the movement practices when and where it feels natural,” says Oswald.
Core Connect Breath
Use this breath as the basis for all other movements. This practice coordinates your exhale with a pelvic floor and abdominal wall contraction, which lends more stability and strength to your inner core. When you inhale, the pelvic floor and diaphragm descend down. On the exhale, the pelvic floor and diaphragm contract up. This relationship is often not coordinated postpartum, so we have to retrain it. To do so, try the following:
- 1.Start in a comfortable seated position.
- 2.Breathe in through your nose, feeling your ribs expand 360 degrees. At the same time, your pelvic floor is gently stretching down.
- 3.Exhale through your mouth while gently engaging your pelvic floor up and in—as if you were pulling a marble up into your vagina. At the same time, gently pull up and in with your lower abdominal muscles.
- 4.Repeat. Do this breath practice for three to five minutes daily.
Note: You can begin to use your exhale while connecting with your inner core when you need extra support throughout your day, for example, when you’re lifting the baby or pushing yourself up from the floor or the tub.
Kneeling to Tall Kneeling
- 1.Start by sitting on your knees with your butt resting on your heels.
- 2.Inhale to begin, then exhale with the Core Connect Breath as you come up to tall kneeling.
- 3.Inhale to return to the starting position.
- 4.Repeat. Do one set of five.
- 1.Start by lying on your back, knees bent and arms by your sides.
- 2.Inhale to begin without any movement.
- 3.Exhale with the Core Connect Breath and lift your hips off the ground.
- 4.Inhale to lower back down to the starting position.
- 5.Repeat. Do one set of five.
Open Chest Twist
- 1.Start by lying on your right side with your knees bent and arms straight out in front of you.
- 2.Inhale as you lift your top arm and twist your upper body to look up toward the ceiling.
- 3.Exhale with the Core Connect Breath to return to the starting position.
- 4.Repeat. Do one set of five on each side.