Just after my second child was born, my body felt entirely broken. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong and I was filled with shame about the whole thing. BIG SHAME.
You see, I had spent my entire adult life as a Pilates teacher, a core specialist, and a corrective exercise specialist. But, there I was, left not only with extreme back pain, but a giant postpartum “pooch” and a sticky-outie belly button that was clearly herniated. And no matter how much I applied all the skills and tricks I had earned over the years of my education, NOTHING worked. Nothing.
And, so, like many other women, I decided it was my fault. My body was broken. My body was always going to be in pain. A weird forever-pregnant belly was part of the deal of having kids. I concluded that I would just hide in baggy clothes and pretend I wasn’t wincing every time I played with my kids.
And, then, due to the gifts of restlessness and desperation provided by postpartum depression, I secretly started googling ab workouts for six packs. I bought the program P90X and made it through maybe one half of one day. Then, when I flunked out of all of that, I started trying to get smaller, rather than stronger, figuring that maybe the weird alien belly was just the multiple boxes of frozen waffles I was eating every night.
Of course, as so many of us have experienced, everything just got worse and worse, which started to make me angry. That anger turned the volume up on the whisper I had been ignoring all along: YOU ARE NOT BROKEN, THE CONTAINER IS. That whisper led to me deciding to start from scratch and erase all I had learned about core strength and the abdominals. I started researching the work of spine experts and digging into their academic research studies, rather than believing and relying on before/afters of shiny happy fitness companies.
What I found was shocking and incredibly encouraging. We were doing it all wrong. The simple truth was that strengthening our abdominals in a flexed position (crunches, etc) was not only completely useless for true core strength, it was harmful to the spine as well. The way forward was clear:
- Strengthen yourself in extension not flexion
- Integrate your pelvis in a neutral position
- Stand, sit, and move with the correct, stacked posture
Once I started down this path, I found expert after expert who would help my body regain strength and become pain-free. One of those experts remains today to be the most influential inspiration in my own work in the world: Esther Gokhale. Esther discovered these truths laid out above by using her anthropological lens to solve her own back pain. Through studying indigenous cultures with low-rates of back pain, she found that the way they held their spine and the way they moved each day was the secret to their lack of physical discomfort. She taught me that it was okay to stand tall, that having curves in my spine was essential, and that exercise had nothing to do with appearance, but everything to do celebrating our birth-right of movement.
From there, everything in my life changed. And I mean everything. This is why I know for sure that an integrated pelvis equals a calm nervous system, and a calm nervous system is what we need to behave powerfully and express ourselves fully. If we want to change the world and give women the platform we all deserve and need, let’s make sure each woman’s foundation is secure and stable.
It is with immense gratitude that this Saturday, May 12th, I will be celebrating MommaStrong’s 6th anniversary with none other than Esther Gokhale. Together, we will be hosting a FREE live event on YouTube, discussing the pelvic floor. It will be a dynamic, image-rich, hearty conversation of the ins and outs and hows and whys of the part of YOUR body that matters the most.
Come celebrate with us on Saturday by diving into the incredible potential of your NOT BROKEN body with people who have the answers you have been seeking.
WHAT: Strengthening Your Pelvic Floor the Right Way
TIME: 9am PST/11am CST/12pm EST
FOR WHO: All women, all ages, no matter how near or far from childbirth you are