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Congratulations on having a baby!

There are so many things that you are doing right now, like diapering, feeding, and caring for your new baby, all while surviving on very little sleep. You are probably both excited and freaked out about this life change and that’s totally okay, and all within the scope of normality for new mamas.

One of the things us women start to worry about most after settling into life as a mother is our bodies, and in particular our bellies.
As expected, your belly is probably a bit more mushy than normal, and likely mushier than you expected it to be. The extra flab and loose skin towards your lower abdomen makes you feel as if you’ve taken on a body that is not your own – but you’re forced to accept that these changes are the result of one of life’s most beautiful experiences – pregnancy. Aside from the beauty of it all, you probably find it hard to accept this new midsection because there’s so much pressure on women to look a certain way.
There’s even more pressure on women to fit a particular ideal as quickly as possible after baby, mostly fueled by the media. It’s unfair, but it is certainly unavoidable.

So what do we do about it?

If you know me, you know I’m going to say it, so here it is: first, you have to practice acceptance. You have to embrace the changes of your body and believe how lucky you are to have undergone the experience of pregnancy, even if means your abs are not what you want them to be.

Repeat after me: your body is not a machine.

 It took 9 long months to grow your child, which means it’ll most likely take that much time or more before you  shrink back to your pre-pregnancy size. Anything sooner than this might not be healthy for you, and we just don’t want to go there.
Accepting and embracing your body as it is, doesn’t mean you eat crap, not work out and give up on caring about how you look, it simply means you are practicing self-love at this point in your life.
And while it’s hard, it’s definitely worth the effort.
After you give yourself some good, strong, love, grab a pen and start jotting down some affirmations on your bathroom mirror. Check your body for whether or not you have experienced diastasis recti during your pregnancy, a condition that causes your abdominal muscles to separate. You’ll want to know if you have experienced this because if you did, there are many exercises you should be avoiding.

Instead, you can start practicing few healthy breathing techniques.
Why breathing?

First, it balances your parasympathetic system which helps you become more relaxed and being relaxed helps you with better digestion and you release less of the “bad” hormones. It helps you be nicer to yourself and enjoy your baby more. Just from doing what comes most naturally to us, breathing.

Deep breathing.

But there’s also a different kind of breathing that I learned first from my dear friend, yoga teacher Jennifer Wolfe, and later read more and more about. It’s a forceful kind of breathing that helps you bring the abdominal muscles closer together.

You can learn more about this kind of breathing in my upcoming video, but here’s a sneak peak.

In short? You basically sit comfortably with your back straight up and your shoulders relaxed. As you inhale, you inflate the belly with air, and as you exhale you let the air out with a “sh” sound. Push the belly button toward the spine while using your transverse muscles to bring everything into the center. Hold this for 5-10 seconds and repeat few times. Like everything else, you need to practice and increase in time and repetitions. 

Here are some pictures to understand what’s happening to your belly muscles. And links that explain how to check for diastasis recti.
diastasis recti image by mutusystem.com

image from http://www.theheelercentre.co.uk/

How to perform a self-check: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PvybTZiLqRE
It’s always good to practice this kind of breathing in order to get used to isolating the muscles. Doing a little more research about the transverse muscles in your abdomen will certainly help you understand how to focus on hugging into the center. Practice it later on when getting back into the routine exercises that are not recommended if you have separation of your abomination muscles.

In conclusion?

There’s a chance your abs may never look the same as before and this may take you some time to accept. But guess what – you created a human life, and a beautiful one at that. Think about who you are today and what means most to you. You’re not the same person you were before anyway… right?

Breathe on…