I distinctly remember the day I felt sensation in my abdominal muscles near my navel. It was a feeling I hadn’t had in over a decade. I was in the Low C position for the final abdominal set and was concentrating in the final hold. If you’ve taken an Alkalign class, you know that by the end your core is nearly spent and you’re doing everything you can to breath through it while maintaining proper form and alignment. I may have let out a gasp of shock when the sensation hit me.
To accurately tell this story, I have to go back a few decades (or longer – eek!). In high school, I ran cross-country and track and played volleyball. In college, I continued that active lifestyle while working 2 jobs and taking a full load of classes. As an adult, I maintained running and volleyball as hobbies, but it never occurred to me that the way I was moving my body was slowly damaging it. I thought the more activity and the harder I worked at being healthy and fit, the better my body would be. I was very wrong.
After I had my first child (a small 6-pound baby boy), I noticed I was softer in my core but didn’t worry because I returned to my pre-pregnancy clothes and weight by the time he was 2 months old. After my second child (a significantly larger 9-pound baby boy), I lost all elasticity in my skin and developed a gaping hole in my abdominals around my navel that I worked hard at correcting by doing “ab work.” After my third child, I asked my doctor why my abdominals were hosting their own Grand Canyon and learned I had diastasis recti, a separation of the connective tissue around rectus abdominis muscle. My doctor measured the separation at 6 fingers wide and told me diastasis is a common side effect of pregnancy that only surgery could fix. It was live with it or go under the knife. So I opted to embrace my mommy body and move on from caring about the aesthetics of my midsection.
Fast-forward to the day my core “woke up” in that Align class. After my Low C epiphany, I couldn’t wait to get home and engage again to figure out what I was feeling. Sure enough, my Grand Canyon was only one finger wide. I couldn’t believe it! At first, I attributed it to the abdominal sets in class, but I soon found out they were only a small part of the story. I am a curious person by nature, and I wanted to know what was happening in my body and why, so I started researching, listening and reading!
What I learned is that diastasis occurs when the connective tissue (linea alba) that holds both sides of the rectus abdominis together is damaged by an outside force or pressure (like pregnancy, weight gain, poor alignment, etc). The linea alba stretches, and the result is a gap. Diastasis recti can affect pregnant women as well as babies, children and men. I highly recommend learning more about this condition from Katy Bowman, author of Diastasis Recti: The Whole Body Solution to Abdominal Weakness.
I knew Alkalign had something to do with my rectus abdominis coming back together, but I didn’t know exactly how. In my search, I found Bowman’s podcast called Move Your DNA, and things became clear. Suddenly, my whole life pieced together as a hot mess of bad movements. Through my research, I realized I had diastasis before I was even pregnant, but the force of pregnancy exacerbated it.
In my youth, I was a slim and fit person, but I always had a small belly that stuck out no matter how many sit-ups I did or miles I ran. It was barely noticeable to anyone else, but it always bothered me. My solution was to suck it in (tuck my hips), stick my chest out (flare my ribcage) and do crunches like crazy (push my abdomen out farther)! In short, my bad abdominal exercises and poor posture during daily movement and workouts pulled my abdominals apart long before my pregnancies. The babies were just the final straw that broke the fascia.
It took months of practicing neutral spine at Alkalign for my body to create the muscle memory and strength it needed to correct a lifetime of bad movement and posture habits. It wasn’t only the carefully crafted abdominal exercises that healed my body. It was also the focus on finding neutral in quad work, in stretching from neutral with square hips, from building my core from the inside out!
I now practice nutritious movement while building strong muscles that support me in all 7 functional movement patterns. I still have a lot to learn when it comes to healing my body through movement, but the road started the moment I walked into Alkalign, which continues to change my life for the better.