Ayurveda & Bengkung Belly Binding

What is Ayurveda? 

Ayurveda is not very popular in the West. In fact, there's a lot of skepticism around it's philosophy and practices. 

But it is slowly, slowly integrating it's way into the minds and hearts of yogis.

The root of the word Ayurveda - āyus- translates to life and -veda translates to science. The literal meaning of Ayurveda is "science of life."

Ayurveda is a traditional system of medicine of India that seeks to treat and integrate body, mind, and spirit. It utilizes a comprehensive holistic approach. It incorporates changes in diet, herbal remedies, exercise, meditation, breathing, and physical therapy to treat an individual based on their specific constitution.

My introduction to Ayurveda began in 2015 during my first trip to Mysore, India. While I was there to practice at KPJAYI, I attended a course in Ayurveda and massage at the Mumuksha Centre for Transformation.

Now that I'm back stateside, I'm continuing my education through an online course led by Dr. Robert Svoboda and Dr. Claudia Welch. This course has been great as I'm able to study from home AND move through the material at my own pace. 

Last Father's Day my husband and had our first date night in forever and we had a chance to watch The Doctor from India at the Roxie in San FranciscoThe Doctor from India "is a meditative and immersive portrait of the life and work of Dr. Vasant Lad, the holistic health pioneer who first brought the ancient medical practice of Ayurveda from India to the west in the late 1970s." You may find more information on Dr. Lad and Ayurveda at the  Ayurvedic Institute.

Now this is definitely coming from the opinion pile, but I do believe that we can benefit from both eastern and western medicine.  Eastern medicine is generally preventative, western medicine is commonly interventive. When both are applied correctly, it can provide more balance and health to our system. I don't believe that these sciences are mutually exclusive.  

As Dr. Shanti Rubenstone stated at her keynote talk at the recent Yogananda festival "if you have appendicitis, don't go see your acupuncturist, go see a surgeon!" 

Ayurveda and Belly Binding

In the last 12 months since baby Mila's birth I suffered from a variety of symptoms including insomnia.  

No, no, it's not because of the baby waking me up throughout the night. Baby sleeps just fine. I decided that I would finally see an ayurveda practitioner to provide some support, especially since I tried a variety of things including ear plugs, sleep masks, magnesium, implementing digital sunset... you name it, I tried it. 

I really did not want to go the Ambien route. 

So I decided to see an ayurveda practitioner. 

The insomnia, I discovered was due to PTSD. I had forgotten that in the first few days after my crash c-section that I was terrified to close my eyes and fall asleep.  Apparently, my nervous system was on constant fight or flight mode, which was keeping me from sleeping through the night.

After following some of the practices the practitioner "prescribed" to me (btw in the US, Ayurveda practitioners are not legally allowed to diagnose or prescribe medicine) I finally started to sleep better.

One of practices that was prescribed that inspired this post was belly wrapping, aka belly binding.

If you've had a chance to read my last post on post partum recovery, you'll know that I've been working on healing the separation of the rectus abdominis along the center line of the body. This condition is most commonly referred to as Diastasis Recti. 

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DR & Bengkung Belly Binding

This was not the first time I heard about wrapping the belly. I've known about it for a while, but when it came time to implement it after birth, I was super overwhelmed. In those first tender weeks postpartum, my priorities were to manage my pain level, produce enough milk to help my baby thrive, and to be able to walk again. 

I recall looking up "belly binding" and the images I found looked complicated enough that I decided to just use a commercial Bellefit binder. I mean who has time to figure out this complex wrap thing? Yes it looks beautiful, but also intricate and time consuming.

 Image use with permission from  theBarefootMomma

Image use with permission from theBarefootMomma

While you'll find a plethora of commercial binders at maternity stores, there is very little information on belly wrapping. I also found commercial binders at my OB/GYN's office, but literally nothing on alternative methods of supporting the belly post partum.

Mamas, I wish had this kind of support sooner as it made a significant change in my recovery. Within a few days of wrapping, I noticed a major difference in my DR.  There was less protusion and my back started to feel so much better. 

In addition, I did not feel as much pressure on my pelvic floor with the belly wrap compared to the commercial binders. 

The Benefits of Bengkung Belly Wrapping

While Bengkung Belly Wrapping roots are found in Malaysian culture, there are many cultures around the world that incorporate techniques in wrapping the belly. 

  • Adaptability. Wrapping the belly with cloth is more adaptable to your body and works with your specific shape. With most commercial binders, you need to purchase multiple sizes as your body goes down, wrapping allows you to customize more easily to your size.
  • More support. It provides support not only to the belly but also back and hips which most commercial binders miss. 
  • Belly wrapping feels more natural. Because you are wrapping your self, you can also tailor how much support you need. Belly wrapping feels like your body is receiving a big hug, rather than squeezing yourself into something too constrictive to breathe in. 

When Should I Start Belly Wrapping?  

While it's recommended that most moms do this within a few days after a vaginal birth and 4-6 weeks (with approval from your doctor) post cesarean, I only began this about 14 months after.  Despite this lapse in time, wrapping has improved my back pain tremendously.  I also feel a major difference in my abdominals when I have gone through a day with the wrap versus without.

Let me tell you mamas - it's actually very simple to do this method. Once you get the hang of it, it's not as complex as it looks. 

To demystify the method of binding, I've recorded this short tutorial for you. 

 

Belly Wrapping Tips 

Materials: Start with a long piece of cotton, muslin or silk cloth, about 16-17 yards long. You may purchase pre-made and pre-treated cloths or shop around for some at your local fabric store. 

The cloth I use in this tutorial was purchased from theBarefootMomma shop on Etsy. 

Clothes:  Wear a nursing top so you can keep the wrap on for most of the day. A skirt is also highly recommended if you plan to start the wrap lower along the hips.

Duration: While it's recommended to keep the wrap on for most of the day, you may find that you can only keep the wrap on for a few hours.  That's totally fine! Keeping the belly wrapped for even a short amount of time will still be very helpful. 

Conclusion

While I have used the commercial binders in the first few months post partum, this method has been a game changer. I so wished that I took the time to learn this method or that someone showed me how to do this early on.  

I hope this tutorial video helps you.

Good luck mamas and please let me know if you have any questions. 

Xx

Charina