Under Pressure (Part 2)

If you’re interested in reading more on ideas presented in the article below, I suggest reading Diastasis Recti: The Whole-Body Solution to Abdominal Weakness and separation. If you’d like movement instruction via video, start with Smart Digestion.

Continuing on from the last post (Read Under Pressure – part one here), let’s talk a little about what increases intra-abdominal pressure.

1. Sucking in your stomach. Seriously. If you stand in front of a mirror and “let it all hang out” (just make sure it’s after midnight…) you are going to see some stuff. Now I know that many of you out there aren’t engineers, but I’m going to ask you something. Where do you think all of that *stuff* is going? I’ll give you a hint. Or better than that, I’ll give you the answer.

You are displacing your organs upward (or downward) to make room for the stuff, while also increasing the pressure in the abdomen. What gives? Eventually what gives is the tissue (fascia) that connects one discrete muscle to the next. When the pressure gets very high, the guts push into the muscular wall, which gives out, thinning and eventually tearing the fascia between the muscles.

If you’ve got *stuff*, then you need to deal with it – not hide it at the expense of your organs.

2. Breathing in a non-optimal way. I tried to write this out a million times and eventually I just ate a PB & J sandwich and made this video instead. I hope it makes sense.

P.S.  Many of you have learned belly breathing as a relaxation tool because it helps the diaphragm relax from all the hours spent sucking it in. Babies breathe a belly breath but only when they are lying down. That’s when you should be belly breathing too — when your spine does not need transverse support to keep the vertebrae from smashing the discs in between.

3. Holding in gas. Has the following ever happened to you?

You dress up for a party in your oh-my-gosh-I-can’t-believe-these-fit jeans. You swear you wont eat anything. You look great. You feel great. But then, a couple hours into the party you do eat something because looking this good makes you work up an appetite. And on an empty stomach, that something you ate caused some gas. You can’t fart though, not in this smokin’ hot outfit. So you hold your stomach and gas in, for the rest of the party. When it is time to leave, you can’t leave fast enough because now you have a stabbing pain in your lower abdomen and the desire to fart 1000 farts. But when you try, they don’t come out with the vigor you were hoping. Once at home you put on your super-stretchy, comfy pajamas only to find that the stomach that was flat earlier at the party, now resembles something more from the days of a six-month pregnancy.

Be honest. You know what I’m talking about, right? And, my over-the shoulder-reading husband pointed out that this would never happen to a man. It is simply not in his cultural programming to suffer painfully as far as clothes or farts go. But more on that later.

P.P.S. If you want to know more about gas and farts and tight pelvic floors, you can read this (click).

So, how does all of this relate to diastasis recti and other pressure-related ailments? The above list is part of the contributing mechanism of these ailments. These are habits that must start to change for the healing to begin. These are habits that, in conjunction with the extra loading from pregnancy, can result in “pregnancy-related” ailments. It’s not the pregnancy; it’s what your body brought to the pregnancy table that creates the ailments.

Don’t worry. There’s more, my chest-breathing, rib-thrusting friends…

Are you still interested in learning more on this?

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33 thoughts on “Under Pressure (Part 2)

  1. Katy, I really look forward to every one of your post! I laugh and learn. I am taking a nutrition class in Olympia Wa in December and hope the Restorative institute is ready for a student. I feel like I am making progress but could use a refresher. I can make it all the way across the monkey bars and you would so proud of the calluses on my hands.

    1. Where will you be Julia!? I can’t wait to see you. You have to come for a visit! I’ll be doing some book touring in early Dec. What’s your time frame?

      1. My class starts Friday Dec 9th and runs through Sunday Dec 11th so I was thinking the week of Dec 12th. If that doesn’t work I will be back to Olympia again in March and June so I am hoping to visit you all!

  2. Great stuff. I’ve had 5 babies and I either don’t have DR or it’s very slight, so I guess I’m not doing the posture moves pictured.

    So how DOES one flatten their stomach? Without sucking in?

  3. Thank you Katy! This is the best explanation I have ever seen or heard on how to promote optimal breathing.

    I believe this is crucial in over coming the problem of not activating TA’s. I look forward to all your postings and you have helped me immeasuably on my journey of recovery!

  4. Katy,

    Enjoy your video blogs it’s just as if you were in my office talking to me about breathing. I laugh at your jokes and comments and ask questions expecting you to answer. Keep it up!

    We miss you in Ventura, CA!

    Brenda Compton

  5. Off topic but I was trying to nurse my daughter to sleep while I was watching this and she was almost out when she heard your son in the background. She whipped her head around so fast, looking for what I’m not sure. The intruder? That cute voice? I don’t know but suddenly she was wide awake again. Rather amusing (especially now that she’s going back t sleep again 😉 )

    I spent YEARS trying to “correct” my breathing from rib breathing TO belly breathing because I was (apparently) misinformed as to which one was correct. Back to the drawing board :-/ Thank you so much, I’ve been learning so much here and have been spreading the word about both you and Pelvic Floor Disorder. How something so apparently common has been hushed up so long that we now are told to just accept it as a normal part of aging when we are suddenly blindsided with it really mystifies me.

  6. So after reading your informative and entertaining blog today, I went and stood at the farmer’s market (in external rotation) and concentrated on relaxing my belly. It’s quite a mental task to remind yourself continually to relax, then emotionally accept the fact that indeed I do, like Katy says, look like a woman who’s 6 months pregnant. Perhaps letting go of the ego is the most challenging part of restoring alignment. So I shall “start again” tomorrow! Thanks for sharing your wisdom with us, Katy-san…..

  7. Wonderful post as always! I’m learning so much from you. And even though I was already a fan, one can’t help love someone who posts video blogs with baby comments in the background 🙂

    1. Who wants to edit out the baby contents??? Never! Just wanting to show you that I am a real, regular-living person who has to fit work and health into my life just like everyone else!

  8. Good grief, this is what my hubby has always said to me… about farts… about holding my stomach in… how can we have been raised so differently from men? How do they know all this stuff and we don’t?

    Dear Katy, thanks to you I am breaking down my rib-thrusting habit of over 35 years, something I started as a teen. Now I discover I need to stop holding my belly in, too, and let those gassers go.

    Wow, just wow.

    I will say, though, that in my teens, I ate a lot more crappy food than I do now in my early 50s. I am also celiac and didn’t know it back then, so I had a LOT of gas. Very gassy girls, me and my sis, so we are both quite excellent at holding it in. Not so necessary now that we’re gluten-free, but at least, that’s part of how we developed the habit.

    We will both start working on letting it go… but will I still be a fun guest at parties???

  9. For many years I’ve read that one should be “belly breathing”. The poor alternative was the “military” suck-in-your-gut and breath which raises the shoulders and expands the rib cage. So, if I’m shaped a little like the happy Bhudda, and expand the rib cage and let the abdomen move forward to fill the lung as much as possible, this is wrong? The biggest complaint from the experts was that we weren’t using our full lung capacity which among other things led to lethargy. I don’t think more oxygen will help me or the Bhudda. :0)

    1. I think that general breathing guidelines have oversimplified breathing into two categories (belly breathing and shoulder elevating), but this is not correct. I think that if there were only two categories, then I’d personally go with belly breathing too, but the third option (intercostal) as mentioned in the video, actually results in greater lung inflation (and therefore greater oxygen intake) then the other two without overloading the delicate spinal tissues. And Happy Buddha or not, how one is shaped has nothing to do with the the way the body gets oxygen. The mechanics are the same no matter which Buddha you resemble 🙂

      There is no “right or wrong”, only the outcome you desire. And getting the greatest amount of oxygen is important as most people are getting only about 25% of their potential volume delivered at the the capillary level. Everyone can use more oxygen for the sake of tissue regeneration. Oxygen is the food that the body “eats” if you will. As far as Bhuddha goes, Vipassana pays no attention to mechanical breathing style. Breathe the way you breathe. He only asked that you pay attention to it… 🙂

  10. All your posts are great. There Are some things here that I’m sure I e felt I should not do but wasn’t sure why. So thanks for answering those questions. However I’m still (after seeing the video) not sure how to breathe.

  11. I love your video on breathing, well done yet again Katy!

    I have been teaching this for about 5 years now, we (Taoist practitioners) call it belt breathing. I love the fact that the chinese have been preaching this for over 5000 years and nowl its 2011 and western science is finally catching up – hooray, hooray!

    1. Whoot Whoot! Yes, this is *natural movement* — it’s been around since the beginning of time. The only reason we have to teach it is because we haven’t lived the natural life for tens of thousands of years! Crazy, right? We have completely overridden our body’s natural reflexes.

  12. Because of neck issues, every morning before getting out of bed I have to do “chin tucks”. Between the tucks, I did this intercostal breathing you explained in the video… I could actually feel and hear the thoracic and cervical portions of my spine slip into more correct alignment – it felt “right”. Thank you for sharing this with us.

    By the way… that view from your window is BEAUTIFUL!!!

  13. These two posts were great to read and view since I now have an umbilical hernia. Aside from continuing to retrain my habits, and work on psoas release, and alignment, etc. etc.; are there movements to avoid in stretching because they might aggravate ore enlarge the separation in the fascia? Say the spinal twists?

    Thanks Katy,

    Joann

  14. I read your posts, and everything just makes SENSE! It’s backed up with sources. Love your stuff.

    Right now, at Cheeseslave, she is promoting the Tubler technique… have you ever heard of it? Basically, from what she is writing…. it sounds like many of the things they promote doing are the exact opposite of what you soundly show are the wrong things to do (like “sucking in,” etc). The Cheeseslave post can be found here: http://www.cheeseslave.com/book-review-lose-your-mummy-tummy/

    (Though, to be fair, the “Cat Vomit” exercise DOES look similar to something you promote, but perhaps I am misunderstanding!)

    Is there a continuation to this post? I really want to read more, as I have a friend with diastasis recti and I’d love to send her not only the info. about what NOT to do, but what she can be doing to help the DR! 🙂

  15. As a Pilates instructor I do try to teach what we call in Pilates Lateral Breathing, which is exactly what you talk about here. One sentence here tho caught me: In my classes I usually tell beginners not to worry too much about the breathing to start with and I get to it a bit later during the courses I teach… when you said a lot of alignment problem can come from the way a body’s habit of breathing is it gets me thinking maybe I should focus about the “Pilates Breathing” more with beginners than I am at the moment… so thanks for this thought provoking blog 🙂

  16. Wow, thank you so much! You would think that I would learn this things in my studies as a Kinesiology and now Naturopathic Medicine, but no… Hopefully this will help my diastasis recti!

  17. Fascinating! That was a great breathing explanation! I didn’t realize I was belly-breathing as a habit. Huh. And when I try to rib-breath, I feel like I can’t get enough air, and the shoulder explanation really clears that up for me. Interesting. More to pay attention to. Thanks!

  18. Thanks for the information, i had never heard of this before and now have been told by doctor yesterday i have it:( I just had my first baby 6 weeks ago..So i see the things i am not suppossed to do listed in your blog but unless i missed it what steps do i take to heal? The doc said it will heal on its own eventually but untl then can i help by seeing a chiropracter? doing yoga? maybe pilates? physio? I’m not sure how to carry a growing baby with my stomach feeling like it may split open:( Thanks

  19. Katy, I discovered your website a few days ago, and it has been very empowering and inspiring. It is so much BS out there, so it is such a relief finding someone who really knows her stuff whom I can trust. Already become more aware on how I walk and hold myself, and have made changes. While I already used a standing desk for parts of the day, I am sitting even less now. Just ordered your book on Amazon.
    My question: In swimming (freestyle) there is a lot of talk about the importance of belly breathing. Is that a situation where the spine does not need transverse support, where you would recommend belly breathing?

  20. Hi Katy. Love your blog and have been working on my alignment for a couple of years now. 🙂
    Question: My son (now 22 mo) has diastasis recti. Is this something I should be concerned about? Is there anything I can do to help it? I have read differences of opinion on medical vs. kinesiology websites. I trust your knowledge of how our bodies actually work and was hoping you had an answer. Thanks!

  21. HI Katy,
    it´s nice you say “there´s no right or wrong way to breath” Important is the outcome you desire.
    From many many breathing books we have learned how good the diaphragmatic breathing is:it massages the inner abdominal organs and heart and “dances” in the same ryhtm with pelvic floor diaphragm. PFmuscles are receiving the breath and getting nice important massage. We have learned that actually most of the PFs are tight so we need to learn to relax them because tight PF muscles cannot receive the breath.
    If we breath in 3-dimensional way all the time so we leave the PF on its own – no support from the breath. You most probably are saying “walk and squat and your PF muscles will be happy”.
    Also diaphragmatic breathing is soothing, relaxing.
    If there are PF issues like prolapses – diaphragmatic breath won´t be good.
    Loved to hear more of this subject.
    Many thanks!

  22. Hi Katy,
    I have diastasis recti and am desperately wanting to fix it. I find your posts very informative and helpful and I’m dying for more. I’m new to your blog, what is the name of the next blog post regarding under pressure 1 and 2?

  23. Loved the interesting and informative talk! Thanks! So funny too! (I love that you have a “living room skeleton”!!!)

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