Restoring PostPartum Breath to Facilitate Postural Change: The Tools I use

Post #2 of the Lotus Life.

Here we are...  Straight from the chaos of a mother’s closet. I am literally hiding in my closet writing this.

  Post #2 straight from the chaos of a mother’s closet. I am literally hiding in my closet writing this.

Post #2 straight from the chaos of a mother’s closet. I am literally hiding in my closet writing this.

 I sit here amongst the boxes, bins, and bags of clothes (and shoes) that used to fit, or may one day fit again or maternity stuff I am done with and nursing gear that is temporary.  This to me just highlights the level of transition in this glorious postpartum journey.

I’ve spent a lot of time checking in with my body as a tool of my mindfulness practice.

 I am more and more aware that the starting ground is a very different body than I have had for the past 30 something years.

The methods of exercise, strengthening, and improving performance that I called upon during the many years of my athletic career are not appropriate for the restoration of my current physical body.

There are moments that this is saddening.  I love strength training, plyometrics, agility, climbing, running, and playing any sport.  The reality is my most central axis of movement is not functioning to provide the safety and stability to perform those things I love.  The work must start very deep inside. So it’s time for a contemplative pause and perspective shift.  I can take a moment to modulate the emotional freak out about how my body is failing me and reframe my perspective to self kindness.  I have actually carried a human being and been its sole provider for the last 9 months.  I am so grateful to have shared that time and experience with each of my children.  The truth is this body has done wondrous things. For that I am grateful. MY WORK IN THE RECOVERY PROCESS WILL GO MUCH FURTHER IN THE SPIRIT OF SELF LOVE.     

 

Let’s begin…or get to work restoring breath...

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I start by opening my yoga blanket one fold and roll it up to a long tube.  Fold the tube into a circle and lie prone.  The cut out in the center leaves space for the breasts to rest more comfortably (thank goodness since I am nursing) This helps to passively close the front of my ribcage and facilitate some spinal flexion.  In this position I can access the lateral breath in the posterior (back body) rib cage/mobilize posterior ribs: they have been closed from postural changes of pregnancy.  This positioning facilitates diaphragm movement in the posterior body.  My glutes are totally relaxed and not gripping.

 

How many? How much?

The answer is:  As many as I can do with undivided attention,  and as much mindful awareness as possible.

 When my mind begins to wander and I can’t FEEL the work in my body it is time to stop.  That may be 3 breaths, it may be 10.

 The work needs to be authentic, not just feeding the ego by completing 10 reps.

I know that I am at the beginning of this process and my body is more comfortable relying on the same poor posture of gripping my glutes for stability, overextending my spine in my thoracolumbar junction (the top of my lumbar spine region), closing down my back ribs, and living on the outer (lateral) edge of my right foot and leg, where I found support during pregnancy.  I go back to those  habits when I am carrying the baby, lugging the car seat carrier, putting the stroller in the car.  But my mindful awareness to breath into my back body will help me access my deeper stabilizing musculature and change the posture pattern problem.

 

Next up...Legs up the wall, checking in with pelvic floor

I place a bolster under my pelvis and a blanket folded perpendicular to the bolster to align the spine. After finding that the belly breath that I had easily accessed in the past is now causing a sense of downward pressure in my pelvic floor,  I realize I have to make a CHANGE and initiate the same lateral breath as the previous exercise.

The change starts with my cueing.

This is how I access the mind-body connection and can make lasting changes in the message my brain sends to my body.  Instead of beginning by expanding the belly, ribs, and chest outward as the 3 part breath is often taught, I start with expanding the ribs laterally.  I then feel a natural expansion of my belly without downward pressure and a slight lift of my chest.  With expansion of the ribcage east to west I find the belly still expands with the breath but not to its full excursion. This is a more functional expansion and without creating the downward pressure on the pelvic floor.  It’s now much more comfortable for me to take a fuller, deeper breath.

After establishing a smooth lateral breath, I can begin to visualize the pelvic floor relaxing and widening with the same east west direction as the ribcage during the inhale.  I continue the breath work mindfully with an idea of creating space in my body. Upon the exhale I visualize an upward and inward lift of my navel and pelvic floor. I am not changing the position of my pelvis and I am absolutely not engaging my glutes or gripping my butt.  The work is from my pubic bone and up the front of my spine.  

Accessing my deepest central axis.

 I am able to facilitate spinal decompression with this breath. It feels great to maintain the decompression to grow and open the space with each breath.  Check out this video from Shelly Prosko, a fellow Physical Therapist and Physioyoga Teacher, with variations of this breath by adding in the internal and external rotation of the hips with breath. The next challenge will be to take this breath into standing…

 

In the more functional and real life position of standing I work to access the same breath.

 I am looking to decompress the spine and learn how to stand upright again with the goal of restoring the natural, healthy curves of my spine.  Any kind of dowel or stick will work here.  In the few minutes I have to work, I grab a golf club.

  • I hold the club over my head with arms extended and begin to find my east west breath.

  • I then mindfully connect my pelvic floor with the breath.

  • My lateral breath allows me to create the same spinal decompression in standing. It feels like I can lift my ribcage off my pelvis

  • This gives me a feeling of growing tall and making space  

  • I want to begin to explore my ability to maintain the space with movement

  • Keeping arms extending I work toward a small side bend.  

  • The added movement brings back my faulty movement patterns of course makes my ribs flare in the front and close down in the back.  

  • With conscious effort I can use the breath laterally to facilitate a floating neutral rib cage to  unstick the ribs in my back body while knitting my front ribs together to correct the faulty movement.  

  • I have to reign in the movement and shorten the side bend to stay neutral in the ribcage and breath with ease.  In the pictures you will see the difference between sides.  This highlights my very stuck back ribs on the right.  

I also explore rotation here with the golf club behind my back.  I am attempting to maintain contact with the golf club and my back, not pulling away from it as I rotate.  My foundation is the same here.  

Find my breath.

Expand laterally.

Appropriate pelvic floor movement with breath.

Spinal decompression.

Neutral rib cage.

Small exploratory movement in rotation.  

Staying mindful and generating self love.

 

I must fuel my body to do the work of motherhood.  This is a wonderful time of the year to get back into eating a fresh, local veggie-centric diet.  One of my favorite go to recipes are quinoa veggie omelette bites.  They are bite size (that means I can eat them with one hand, no utensils...Amazing!) I can also prep them in stages and they are even freezable.  All good things during this fast paced adventure.  The first step is preparing the quinoa.  I like to use the tricolor quinoa.  I make a big batch 1 or 2 cups of uncooked quinoa. This gives me enough to also make a quinoa salad with the rest.  If all I can accomplish today is cooking the quinoa, it’s cool, pop it in the fridge and finish your bites later or the next day.

Mix:

1 cup of cooked quinoa

½ cup shredded cheese

4 egg whites

1 teaspoon garlic powder

Salt and pepper to taste

1 cup fresh chopped leafy greens (spinach is  my fav)

 

Bake in mini muffin tins at 350 for 15-20 mins

 

I place 3 or 4 in small snack size ziplocks and throw them in fridge or freeze them

Defrost in fridge or on countertop

Eat them hot or room temp, add hot sauce if you need a kick! Fuel up mamas!