Diastasis Recti and Pelvic Floor Weakness - What they are and how to FIX them

Lets start off with a quick description of Diastasis Recti (aka DR), technically speaking it’s an unnatural separation of the rectus abdominis muscles (six pack muscles).  This separation happens 100% of the time in pregnancy, so at the time of delivery every mom has this condition. The belly has to grow and expand to accommodate baby or babies so it makes sense that these muscles get pushed to the side and stretched out. The fascia or connective tissue that lies between and over these muscles, along the linea alba, gets thinned out, stretched and weakened as well. Hands down, almost every mother out there will tell you that their midsection was never the same after having a child. In fact, 3 months postpartum, nearly 60% of women still have this unnatural separation. It can improve on it’s own, but for a good majority it doesn’t. 

How do you know if you have DR? Some women are checked for DR at their postpartum follow-up appointment, but most are not checked or they are unaware if they were checked. One of the telltale signs of DR is the dreaded mommy pooch that just won’t go away. This pooch can appear all along the area of the linea alba or it can be more pronounced at or below the bellybutton. Another common presentation is when the front of the abdomen appears to protrude. This protrusion can start right under the chest and go all the way down to the pubic area. Low back pain can also be connected to DR in some instances.


As a personal trainer and someone who suffered from DR I can’t stress enough how important it is to properly assess DR and the sooner the better. Proper assessment is important because the most common ab exercises to “tone” or “strengthen” the core are the absolute worst moves for someone that has DR. Planks, sit-ups, crunches, v sits and rollups are some examples that can further weaken the area and put someone at risk for a hernia or prolapse. So knowing which moves to avoid while incorporating the right moves and breathing techniques is an essential place to start in order to fix DR. 

When I was told that I had DR nearly 6 years ago, my GYN said that I needed to avoid the typical ab exercises. At the time I wasn’t a trainer, but had a personal interest in fitness and all things movement related so I set out looking for what I needed to do to correct the issue. Surprisingly the available info thru books and media was very sparse so I just continued to avoid the ab work my GYN warned me about. Fast forward a few years I decided to take my interest in training to the next level and became certified as a personal trainer as well as a specialized kettlebell instructor. By this time I had found some useful information on exercises to help correct DR and decided to take a certification course (Postpartum Corrective Exercise Specialist with Dr. Sarah Duvall) that specialized in DR and Pelvic Floor. This course was amazing!! It was the missing link that I needed to completely correct my DR.

An added bonus to correcting my DR was the realization from this course that I also had Pelvic Floor weakness (yeah!!). I would leak when I sneezed and sometimes when I coughed if I didn’t brace for it. I jumped on a trampoline at SkyZone and felt an immediate heaviness in my pelvic floor, it was so uncomfortable that I had to stop jumping IMMEDIATELY. These issues were random so I never thought too much of them, that is, until I took this course. It turns out that sneeze-pee and leaking with or without exertion is so common among moms and we just ignore it or think that its just the norm after having children. Well, let me tell you it’s not normal and you can correct this. I stopped leaking literally 2 weeks after I started implementing the work I learned in the course, it was such an ah ha moment. Pelvic Floor and DR often go hand-in-hand, but they don’t have to. What’s awesome is that most of the exercises and breathing techniques I teach will address both and I can customize it to fit the exact needs of a client. Pelvic Floor weakness can present in other ways as well, like urgency to urinate, difficulty starting or stopping flow of urine, pain with penetration, tampon falls out or moves down on its own or unexplained pain in the genital, hip, butt or pelvic area.

I hope this post has peaked your interest in finding out more about your DR and/or Pelvic Floor weakness. My goal is to help women fix this issue once and for all by implementing specific  breathing mechanics and personalized core strengthening moves while keeping you safe and avoiding injury. Join me at Jaya Yoga for a 4 session Diastasis & Pelvic Floor Fix workshop starting July 22nd. Space is limited to ensure each participant receives a custom program that works for them. Click Here to Register. 

- From Jessica Doncses of Optimize to Thrive

Seasonal Mindfulness

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I often find myself thinking a lot negative thoughts in the winter. I hate the snow. I hate the cold. I hate shoveling. I am always thinking about how much the winter hinders me from doing what I want to be doing. What I don’t realize most of the time is that without this season, I would not appreciate the others as much. In the summer, I make the most of my outdoor hours as I know they are limited. But, still, in the back of my mind, I am thinking about winter. I sit by my pool and think, “One day it will be winter again and I will feel sad that I cannot do this.” This is already setting me up for what I will call “winter failure.” I know many people hate summer but enjoy the winter. That is a foreign concept to me! But, are we all always in a constant state of anticipation?  

Everything has something that seems to compliment it. A yin and a yang – opposite energies, but both are needed. The shady side of winter vs. the sunny side of summer. I have to believe that winter is needed in this way for me. After all, there is really no avoiding winter as long as I live in NEPA.  Is it important to think this way? To be mindful of our seasons?

I think so.

All too often, we are anticipating the future, especially when it comes to the weather. In winter, most of us cannot wait to experience the sun and warm weather. We cannot wait for winter to just end. We think about what is to come. In spring, we are doused with a lot of rain and thinking the same thing. Where is the sun? Why do we have to sit through a season of rain? Do we examine why this season is needed? Do we think about how the rain is needed for the summer colors to blossom? When summer is here, many of us are complaining of the heat (not me, but… most others), and we cannot wait for the fall to come and pumpkin flavored everything and slightly cooler temperatures. When the fall comes, though, do we really take in that beauty of fall? I know that I spend a lot of time dreading the winter that is to come.  I often think how much I would like to just move to where it is warm, but it is not always that easy for all of us. We have families and jobs and things that tie us to where we currently are. So if we don’t want to lose all of that, how do we deal with those seasons we all dread?

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If we all take a step back and realize that we are constantly anticipating the seasons, what else are we anticipating? Are we waiting on more things that we cannot control? Does this worry of the future affect our daily well being? Constant worry or anxiety can affect us in many ways, both physically and mentally. If we can begin to notice that we are anxious, we can begin to figure out what it is that is making us feel that way. We can start by changing how we think about one thing. If we take the seasons as an example, we can try every day to live in the present, in that season. Every day we can take a good look around and just take notice of what season we are in, without thinking of the next. We can simply stop and breathe in the cool air, warm air, that fresh spring air, or crisp fall air and we can be happy that we are able to have this current experience. We can begin to check in with our physical selves. Is this weather making us tense? In what areas? Are we hot? Are we cold? How can we relax that tension, or make ourselves more comfortable?

We have this same cycle of seasons every year. We cannot control the cycle, but we can work on how we respond to it. And from there, we can begin to use this concept to learn how we think about other things that we seem to anticipate but have no control over. Every day we each fight a battle with our minds and we do not even realize it. If we stop our thoughts, or take a step back from them and look at what we are thinking, we can become more aware of that battle that we don’t realize we are fighting and we can win it. We have that control to be mindful, we just have to figure out how to use it.

From Erica Nealon

Yoga for Runners

 Ashley is an avid runner and yogi!

Ashley is an avid runner and yogi!

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If you identify as a runner you might be familiar with the following: shin splints, plantar fasciitis, tendinitis, stress fractures. Running takes a lot from your body. With every stride we exert 5 to 12 times our body weight to propel us through the next step. Do that for hours upon hours and you’re bound to end up with a nagging injury. We can’t change how demanding running is, but we can work to prevent these injuries by doing activities that help strengthen our tendons, ligaments, and muscles outside of the quadriceps and calves, which are usually the major muscle groups worked while running. Yoga has many benefits for runners. In addition to the physical effects, it is a highly mental practice. During moments of discomfort we learn to breathe through movements and hold poses; this is helpful when you’re at a point in a race where it’s too painful or tiring to go on. You develop your own mantras that help you achieve success when you just want to give up. As runners we tend to have tight hips, hamstrings, quads, calves, feet – you name it! The appeal of yoga is that no matter which class you go to, all of those body parts will be stretched in some way. In addition to stretching, yoga is a great workout for your core. Your core holds you up while running and will help you retain form in the late stages of a race or long run when your legs give out. A strong core also helps improve your endurance and form. We tend to neglect doing core work, or possibly try and do it improperly. We lead very busy lives and may not always make time for 10 minutes of stretching after every run, but it is highly suggested that you incorporate a yoga class into your self-care routine. Coming from a sport that is highly competitive, yoga is a breath of fresh air in a non-judgmental and supportive environment. It doesn’t matter if you can or can’t touch your toes, there is no competition or prize for doing so. Yoga teaches us to be honest with ourselves and listen to where we’re at in the current moment. Some days we must dial it back in order to move forward. In running, listening to our bodies is crucial and could mean the difference between a minor injury and a sidelining injury. If you feel that your running routine is missing something, are prone to common running injuries, need an effective cross training activity and/or looking to gain strength, flexibility, and confidence, yoga just may be what you need. Hope to see you on the mat!

- Ashley Shamus, Manager of the National Running Center in Clarks Summit


Want to Feel More Relaxed for Better Sleep? Try Meditation

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The benefits of meditation have been known in the Eastern world for generations, but we’re only now beginning to understand the science behind this age-old practice. In a fast-paced, technology-driven world, sometimes you need to take a step back to see how stress might be affecting your life. It could be damaging your relationships, wreaking havoc on your health, or leaving you sleep-deprived. If you want to reduce stress, center yourself, and improve the quantity and quality of your sleep, meditation might be right for you.

Stress-Related Sleep Deprivation

Stress comes with many harmful physical and mental side effects. A few you may have experienced include:

  • Headaches or migraines
  • Muscle tension, especially in the shoulders and back
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Stomach upset such as acid reflux
  • Anxiety
  • Lack of focus
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Appetite changes
  • Social withdrawal

Stress can prevent you from reaching the deepest levels of sleep needed for full regenerative rest, compromising your immune system, affecting your appetite, and overall well-being.

Stress and sleep deprivation form a vicious cycle. Stress makes it hard to sleep, yet lack of sleep makes it difficult to deal with stress, making the effects of stress more pronounced. Bringing stress under control can help put you back on track for getting the full seven to eight hours of sleep you need each night.  

Using Meditation as a Relaxation Tool

Where does meditation come into the equation? Meditation can break the stress-sleep deprivation cycle. Meditation triggers what’s called the “relaxation response.” This response is accompanied by a decrease in oxygen consumption, an increased exhalation of nitric oxide, and a reduction in psychological distress. Other short and long-term effects of the relaxation response include:

  • Slowed brain wave patterns
  • Improved appearance of your skin
  • Decreased muscle tension
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Improved immune system
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Restored circulation
  • Decreased metabolism
  • Increase in communication skills

Other methods of treating sleep deprivation, like sleep education, have proven to be less effective than regular meditation. With continued practice, meditation can fundamentally change how genes express themselves. The genes begin to reverse the damage done by stress to individual cells. In addition, the amount of proteins that cause stress-related inflammation goes down, reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and other illnesses and disorders.

Meditation for Better Sleep

Today, meditation has become more accessible than in the past. Many yoga classes discuss and incorporate meditation as part of the class because the two are so closely related. Apps, websites, and online videos are readily available to help you learn meditative techniques. It can be done before bed to help you let go of stress and relieve tension. Whether you’re sitting in a quiet room or lying on your mattress ready to fall asleep, you can follow meditation instructions to help you drift off to sleep.

If you’re looking for a simple technique to try right away, mindfulness meditation works well for beginners. It involves breathing deeply from the diaphragm and listening and focusing on the inhalation and exhalation of the breath. Some techniques also involve the visualization of a nature scene or counting down numbers. The more you practice, the better you’ll get at developing a method that can change your relationship with stress and sleep.

From Sarah Johnson of Tuck

Incorporating Young Living Essential Oils Into Your Cooking…My Top 4 Tips!

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From Sandi Graham’s Vintage Kitchen

I must admit that I was hesitant in using essential oils into my cooking.  Admittedly, I was hesitant at the thought of using my essential oils in my cooking.  How would it work?  For example, I am not going to use Vitality Basil Oil on a Caprese Salad because the basil a visual ingredient.  However, using Orange essential oil in place of orange juice in a sauce, cuts out extra sugar while keeping the flavor element. 

Once I started thinking about flavor and health, I started playing with more ideas and ways to use essential oils.  Here are my suggestions to help you get started:

  1. You can always add more.  Essential oils are concentrated so you only need a drop or two in a recipe.   With about 85-100 drops in a bottle of Vitality oil, the price per drop is economical.  Additionally, sometimes fresh herbs are not available in the store, so the oils are a convenient substitute.
    (Note: if you are using black pepper, a drop may be too much.  Put a drop onto plate and dip a toothpick into the drop, then swirl the toothpick into your food.  Remember, you can always add more.)
  2. I think it is easiest to start with the citrus oils.  Adding lime, lemon, orange, tangerine, grapefruit or citrus fresh to a recipe in in place of an extract can bring delicious results.  Think cupcakes, frosting, or marinades.
  3. Beverages are a great place to experiment with adding essential oils.  Warm beverages, cold beverages, cocktails, mocktails, and smoothies can all benefit with a complement flavor.  How do you decide a complement flavor? Use some classics: orange and chocolate or cinnamon bark and apple are good places to start.  There are many premixed mocktails on the market, add an oil for a unique beverage.
  4. Don’t overlook dip, bread, or cake mixes.  You can customize a standard mix with just a few drops.  Try rosemary in a quick bread mix or in a marinara dipping sauce.
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Jaya Bingo!

Get on your mat and win! Join us for Jaya Bingo during the month of August!

Play to win prizes or complete the entire board to be entered to win a FREE Month at Jaya! Pick up your card at Jaya's front desk or download and print your own! Then get on your mat with us to win! 


Jaya Bingo is played from August 1st - August 31st. Winners will be drawn for prizes weekly. You will be automatically entered to win a free month with a completed card. Social posts are counted on Facebook and Instagram. Check in at Jaya and use the hashtag #jayasummerfun.

Yoga on the Roof!

 2016 Yoga on the Roof

2016 Yoga on the Roof

Join us Tuesday, July 4th on the rooftop of the Marketplace at Steamtown for Yoga on the Roof! Kids are welcome and there will be a coloring contest featuring the July Yogaphants! Take the coloring sheet with you or color it there, then scan or snap a picture of your masterpiece! Post it to the Jaya Facebook and a winner will be chosen!

Mindfulness Meditation: Why It’s So Important?

Mindfulness meditation is one form of meditation that has been practiced for thousands of years. It has been passed down from teacher to student through a long standing oral tradition. Meditation has numerous benefits but when I was recently asked why it is so important, I had to pause before answering. The answer is in the descriptions of those who practice as they describe their personal journeys. Their reflections usually end with a similar phrase; “It saved my life.” This isn’t uttered with a hint of melodrama. It is said with the strength that it just is. I would have to count myself among those uttering the same words.

I have been practicing mindfulness meditation for four years.  I have experienced my own personal benefits leading to a shift in my professional career as a nutritionist and mindful eating teacher. Scientifically proven, mindfulness meditation when practiced consistently decreases stress, reduces anxiety and depression, as well as ameliorating pain. This practice also increases mood, executive function, body satisfaction, and memory. These are all impactful truths, empowering for those practicing, and important for emotional well-being. I am blessed to have experienced many of these benefits, but what I find so incredible are the subtler, positive benefits. I find that I am able to sleep better enabling better food choices. I can respond to family situations with greater compassion. I am able to be kinder to myself during moments of stress, and therefore make better decisions. My life feels more real, more whole-heartedly lived. I am able to relate to my family, friends, and clients with greater compassion and connection. Isn’t this what we, as human beings, are striving for in this life? For these powerful reasons, I affirm that meditation saved my life.

Lisa Rigau MS, RN

Lisa teaches Guided Meditation at 11:30am Saturdays at Jaya

November Yogaphants

I began drawing elephants in yoga poses not long after I began my own practice of yoga five years ago. As I struggled to learn poses, control my breathing, and develop physical and mental strength I found myself repeatedly sketching a small elephant in my favorite challenge pose at the time: Crow. I realized how perfect an elephant was suited for the pose!! I discovered how utterly graceful he appeared, and recalled a video I had watched as a child of an elephant swimming - the ponderous pachyderm we are familiar with on the land becomes a surprising ballerina in water

Here, then, was my inspiration for Jaya the Elephant: a small portly elephant with several handicaps of his that would normally trouble anyone trying to pose in yoga: a long trunk and tusks that just get in the way sometimes! Yet, as my practice developed so did Jaya's. He learned to adjust his poses to accommodate for his trunk (he even learned to cheat a little with it).

Jaya the Elephant became the ideal yogi for me : defying the very laws of nature and gravity and challenging himself by practicing yoga.