Marianne Tafani was inspired to launch Core connect after a traumatic first childbirth that led to four debilitating injuries which left her alone for 19 hours a day with a newborn baby when she could barely walk.
The 34-year-old French-born founder of the postnatal abdominal rehabilitation programme, which is based in Dubai, said she had “no choice but to educate myself and find solutions.”
“The doctor who delivered my son refused to follow up on me and did not diagnose any of my injuries. My son had surgery when he was six weeks old, a time when hormonal changes are challenging. I could not walk without severe pain for 14 months, among other problems. I felt inadequate and isolated. It was hectic.”
It was after connecting with other mums, who validated her experience and helped her to navigate and make sense of it, that she decided to develop a program to help herself and others.
“As I met my first group of fellow mamas and helped them repair their diastasis recti and abdominal function, a method was born. A core-training method that I soon realised could help all my clients: athletes, clients in rehab and mums.”
Tafani, who was born in France, started training women during their pregnancy in a way that not only kept them ailment-free for nine months but also prepared them for childbirth physically and mentally.
What is unique about the Core Connect method is that it bridges the medical and fitness worlds, merging tools from a number of disciplines, including the most recent research about women’s health physiotherapy, Pilates 2.0 exercises, ancient breathing techniques and visualisation drills.
“Taking care of a baby is demanding,” she says. “If you’re riddled with mum wrists and neck pain, or pee your pants every time you pick up your child, powering through the first few months of motherhood will be hard.”
Patience and knowledge are what is missing in helping mothers reconnect to their bodies after giving birth, says Tafani.
“A lot of women are unaware that they need rehabilitation for their deep abdominals and pelvic floor muscles postpartum, even when they have no symptoms,” she says. “Most assume that things go back to normal on their own. That’s simply not accurate in most cases.”
The pressure to ‘bounce back’ postpartum is another damaging and prohibitive way to dissociate from the body, Tafani feels.
“Our sense of worth is dictated by the imperative to lose weight quickly. I have seen women run or lift weights way too early, and hurt themselves for good. What’s needed is a sensible progression. Your obstetrician checks if your tissues have healed after six weeks. If they have, it does not mean you are strong enough to run a marathon or that your core reflexes are back. It means that you are ready to begin the postpartum journey.”
Core Connect is also designed to help with the mental health challenges that can arrive with new motherhood.
“It can help alleviate childbirth-related anxiety, because prenatal classes feature mental and physical endurance exercises that help expecting mums be prepared for the big day,” she adds.
Postnatally, as well, Tafani ensures like-minded mums have a space to connect and be seen and heard.
WIth the benefit of awareness and acutely engaging with her core, the second time Tafani gave birth was a completely different experience from the first – a ringing endorsement for Core Connect.
“In 2020 I gave birth to my second son,” she says. “It was transformative, restorative and injury free. My abdominal recovery was a breeze. I know that all my research and movement-based program paid off.”
Georgie Bradley is a British/Greek editor and journalist based in Dubai after being bred in Bahrain. She's been published by The Guardian UK, The Telegraph UK, BuzzFeed, The Huffington Post UK, Buro 24/7 and Harper's Bazaar Arabia. Most recently she was the deputy editor of Emirates Woman. You're most likely to find her in the aisle seat.