Hey Mary, I’m not sure if this is a yoga-related question. I had my baby over a year ago. I stopped breastfeeding about 6 months ago. I have been working out constantly, and eating well, but I can’t get rid of my lower belly pooch. I also have a little bit of lower back pain. Do you have any advice for me?
Let’s talk about some of the reasons you might have a stubborn low belly pooch after pregnancy and birth:
Diastasis Recti (abdominal separation)
You can use this video to check for this, but if you’re still uncertain, your best bet is to make an appointment with a pelvic floor therapist. They will check you and provide you with a treatment plan to help you heal.
Pooching can happen as a result of excess skin or body fat above your incision site. This happens because of scar tissue. If this is the case, make sure to massage and mobilize your scar daily. You can read more about that here.
You’re not breathing correctly
Let’s talk a little more about breathing…
Establishing good breathing patterns will help you whether you have DR, a C-section, or a stubborn low belly pooch that won’t go away.
Take a breath in, and out. Is your chest doing most of the moving as you breathe? This is really common during and after pregnancy, because your growing baby makes it hard to get a good inhale.
Ideally, when you inhale, the entire circumference of your ribs should expand, and your pelvic floor should lengthen and relax. If you are stuck in shallow or backward breathing patterns, your pelvic floor doesn’t get a chance to relax.
Muscles have to fully lengthen in order to fully contract, and an effective abdominal contraction starts with a lift of your pelvic floor. A shallow inhale doesn’t allow your pelvic floor to lengthen, which means you won’t get a good contraction of the pelvic floor OR your lower abdominal muscles when you try to engage them.
Are you sucking in?
Many women have learned to constantly suck in their bellies, but this won’t create a flat appearance in your abs. In fact, this can create a pooch.
To suck in, you have to grip the upper abs. Pressure has to go somewhere, and when you grip your upper abs, that sends pressure down into your low belly. Over time, that creates a pooch. More importantly, it creates a strength imbalance in your abdominal muscles.
If you want the “pooch” to go away, do this:
To get a good inhale, visualize sending your breath all the way down to the bottom of your pelvis. As your breath moves down, allow the entire rib cage to expand. Let your belly expand!
As you exhale, your belly, ribs and chest should soften.
Work on this every day. Pick an activity you do daily, like watching TV, brushing your teeth or waiting at a stoplight, and commit to 5-10 of these breaths. It will be hard at first, but it will improve if you are consistent.
One last note…
It’s okay to have belly fat. Belly fat is normal, and doesn’t always mean there is a problem with your abs or your breathing. But it’s okay to work on it. You do you, mama.
PS Getting a good inhale is where we start, but if you want to uplevel your abdominal strength after pregnancy and birth, join the next round of Yoga for Moms with New Babies. The fall session is all about your core!