My postnatal body; to sit-up or not to sit-up?

My Postnatal Body; to sit-up or not to sit-up?

I received an e-mail from a postnatal student recently after the first class in a postnatal yoga course looking for clarification whether or not she could do sit-ups.  As part of the first class I always check student’s abdominal muscles to check whether there is any separation of the muscles, extremely common post pregnancy, which I will discuss further below and I am very clear on the fact that sit-ups are a big no-no during this early postnatal period.  However, the student in question (who does have a separation) has been attending a specific postnatal exercise class, during which sit-ups are encouraged despite no checking of the abdominal muscles.

Working with pregnant and postnatal is something I love.  On hearing that sit-ups were being encouraged for a group of postnatal women made me want to put my head in my hands and weep.

However, I have instead decided to be a little more proactive and write down my thoughts on this subject based on fact and science to empower postnatal women to be able to make their own choices on what is right for their body during this important postnatal time.

Remember that during your pregnancy your abdominal muscles have spent nine months learning how to stretch, increasing elasticity to accommodate your growing baby.  Important work.

Our more superficial abdominal muscles are called the rectus abdominis (RA) (see diagram below).  These muscles connect from the bottom of our ribs to the top of the pelvis.  There are two parts to this muscle on the left and the right, which are connected by connective tissue, known as the linea alba.  During pregnancy this connective tissue stretches as these muscles come apart to accommodate your growing bump and the associated increased pressure within the abdomen; this is a natural part of pregnancy.

Remember these muscles have taken time to stretch so it is common for them to take time to come back together.  The amount of time this takes varies from body to body; we are all different.

diastasis image

Diagram showing the RA muscles, with separated muscles shown on the right

In some bodies there can be a significant gap in the abdominal wall between the two sides of the RA muscles; this is known as diastasis recti.   Often when diastasis recti occurs the connective tissue has lost its elasticity, making it harder for it to draw the RA muscles back together.

It is important not to think of these muscles in isolation and to focus solely on these during your early postnatal days.  Instead we look to work therapeutically from the inside-out slowly and steadily to heal your body.  Francoise Freedman, founder of Birthlight, always emphasises in her teachings that we don’t want to just paper over the cracks.

Underneath the RA muscles sits a deeper layer of muscles, the transverse abdominis (TA).  The fibres of these muscles run diagonally across the abdomen and connect via fascia into the RA.  These are the muscles we want to work with, together with the pelvic floor, to work from the inside to stabilise and heal your postnatal body.

When we perform a sit-up all we are effectively doing is shortening the area between the rib cage and the pelvis, by engaging the RA muscles.  Performing a sit-up can cause the abdominal muscles to ‘dome’ which is effectively pushing the two sides of the RA muscles further apart and increasing any separation that may exist therefore making it worse and possibly permanent.

If focusing purely on the RA muscles in isolation, we can overlook the importance of posture.  Remember the RA muscles connect from the bottom of the ribs to the top of the pelvis.  Therefore, if we are focusing on strengthening these muscles whilst sticking out our ribs and having incorrect pelvic alignment you are never dealing with the source of the issue and can cause increased strain on the linea alba.

When we remember also that nothing works in isolation we look at the importance of the pelvic floor.  For many women (if not all!) postnatally this is an area of weakness.  When you perform a sit-up you are increasing the pressure in your abdominal area, with the pelvic floor below.  If you are putting increased pressure onto a weakened pelvic floor it is not going to be able to support your pelvic organs; resulting in stress incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse both of which are becoming increasingly common in postnatal women.

This is why within my postnatal yoga courses we start slowly and work in small groups.  We learn gentle techniques to work deeply from the inside out with the TA, pelvic floor and lower back muscles to heal your body.  We look at posture and how we can make postural changes to aid the healing process.  Above all, my aim during these postnatal yoga courses is to educate and empower women, reconnecting them to their amazing bodies which may now be quite different to pre-pregnancy, but they have built a baby.  Pretty incredible!


Photo (c) Yoga with Vikki

Vikki is a pre and postnatal yoga specialist teaching classes in Essex and retreats worldwide.  She has trained with both Francoise Freedman of Birthlight and Uma Dunsmore-Tuli, both leaders in the field of yoga for women’s health.

Fourth annual Yoga Garden Party in aid of The Hope Foundation

Yoga Garden Party in aid of The Hope Foundation

Saturday 26th July 2014, 11am – 6pm

Commonwork, Bore Place, Chiddingstone
Edenbridge, Kent, TN8 7AR 


Now it its fourth year and having raised just over £20,000 for HOPE, we are thrilled to announce that the Yoga Garden Party in aid of The Hope Foundation will take place this year on Saturday 26th July at Commonwork Farm, near Sevenoaks in Kent, from 11am – 6pm.

Expect a delicious afternoon of treats for the body, mind and soul for the whole family and a chance for the yoga community to come together and give something back to the country that gave us yoga.

There will be a wide range of classes to try from vinyasa flow to Kundalini yoga, a Gong Bath to Yin Yoga and classes with some of the UK’s best loved yoga teachers including Simon Low, Liz Lark, Catherine Annis, Colin Dunsmuir, Fiona Agombar, James Reeves (iRest) and more.

A whole host of wellbeing treatments will be on offer, including Indian Head Massage, Reflexology, Craniosacral Therapy, Bowen, Reiki and Thai Yoga Massage.

The Yoga Garden Party makes for a great day out for the whole family, yogis and non-yogis alike, with delicious and healthy food and drink, and plenty of fun stuff for kids including yoga and crafts. This year, we are thrilled to have expanded to live music with kirtan from Australia’s number one devotional chanter Kevin James and Karnamrita-Das, the first classically trained western singer in sanskrit bhajan with a voice that leaves you spellbound confirmed to perfom. Plus live music from Geoffrey Richardson (Caravan/The Penguin Café Orchestra) and Frances Knight.

Make sure you bring some funds, as there will a whole host of stalls with ethical products to buy from yoga clothing to handmade jewelry. As always the luxury raffle will be full of great prizes to win.

Entry is £25 per person (entrance includes one yoga class). Children under 16 go free.

In addition, why not make a weekend of it? This year you can stay all weekend and make the most of the beautiful house and gardens at Commowork Farm with two nights B&B, some meals, entry to the garden party on Saturday 26th and a whole day of yin and yang yoga with leading UK teacher and Hope patron Simon Low on Sunday 27th all for £295.

To pre-book tickets and for all other information email

Yoga Garden Party in aid of The Hope Foundation

Join us from noon – 6pm on Saturday 4th August at  Commonwork Farm, near Sevenoaks, Kent for an afternoon of yoga, therapies, fun for kids (YogaBugs, Punch & Judy and more), gorgeous freshly made food and drink from London’s Hampshire Hog. What a diverse range of classes we have for you: Tai Chi, Vedic Chant, Yoga for Backcare, Glow Yoga, Yoga Nidra, Vinyasa Flow and  a class for all on the lawn with Simon Low (rain I love you but not on the 4th August, please!).

Please check out the Yoga Garden Party website for full details and to book your ticket. It’s only £20 per person and kids go free. Funds raised from the event go to  The HOPE Foundation; supporting street and slum children in Kolkata out of a cycle of poverty, despair and destitution.

Yoga Garden Party in aid of The Hope Foundation

This years Yoga Garden Party in aid of The Hope Foundation will take place on 4th August at the gorgeous Commonwork Farm, Bore Place, near Sevenoaks in Kent.

This follows on from the success of last years event in Wimbledon, where we raised over £4000 for The Hope Foundation, a charity which helps the street and slum children of Kolkata in India.

We have some great yoga classes on offer, with something for everyone, from vinyasa flow, mindfulness meditation, yoga for back care to chair yoga and many more inbetween!  We have also handpicked some amazing therapists offering treatments, including relexology, Indian head massage, craniosacral therapy, Thai yoga massage and more!!

The raffle includes a place on a weekend retreat with Simon Low, a 25 class-pass at Good Vibes Studio worth over £350, theatre tickets, to name a few.

Full details will be up on our website very soon, please see

If you wish to register your interest and be informed when tickets go on sale please e-mail

Hope to see you there!

Vikki x

A fully qualified yoga instructor offering group, private and 1-2-1 classes in and around the Chelmsford area