Challenging the Body with Kindness

Hi there! I’m Ivana, a sports biomechanics scientist and a coach passionate about women’s health, things like healthy pelvises, bellies and pressure inside them. Another of my passions is ageing well, longevity. I used to research ageing elite endurance runners and how high levels of training can slow down ageing. I’m also a mum of two, born by a C-section and a home birth after a caesarean (HBAC) who used to struggle with a 6-finger-wide abdominal separation and chronic back pain.

Feel free to get in touch with any questions or collaboration suggestions or just to say hi. I’m always open for new ideas!

Ivana xx

My Approach

I developed the Core rePower method through 12+ years of working with women struggling with prolapse, diastasis recti, hernias and my own journey of overcoming chronic lower back pain.

Many people who would come to see me had found themselves bouncing back and forth between physiotherapy and the gym – getting the all-clear from the physio and going back to training just to get injured and back to physiotherapy, again and again. This is why I developed an approach that seemlesly connects rehabilitation and strength and conditioning training.

Each Core rePower journey includes five stages:

  1. RELEASE - releasing muscle tension, relieving pain
  2. RECONNECT - reconnecting muscles to the brain, restoring reflexes
  3. REBUILD - building muscle, learning to manage pressure and stabilise joints in dynamic workouts
  4. REPOWER - progressive overload, increasing pressure tolerance
  5. REINFORCE - injury-proofing the core, training in vulnerable positions.

Why Movement Kitchen?

I see kitchen as a nurturing environment, a space for creating, playing and experimenting. My studio really is a kitchen – with large mirrors, a climbing frame and a variety of exercise props. I aim to recreate the safe and nourishing atmosphere of the kitchen in my sessions too, offering a supportive space for you to get to know your body and get stronger on your own terms.

I value evidence-based solutions and precise, focused training where everything has its ‘why’, but my coaching style is grounded in empathy and non-violence – challenging the body with kindness.

My Education

  • MSc in Biomechanics / Sport and Exercise Science from the University of Roehampton, London, UK, October 2019 - October 2021 - with distinction
  • LLM in International Business Law from Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands 2008-2009
  • LLB (Hons) in International Law from the University of Belgrade, Serbia, 2000-2005

Professional Qualifications and Training

  • Pelvic Floor Dysfunction - The Missing Link in Persistent Lower Back Pain? - Online Workshop with Carolyn Vandyken, Embodia Academy, April 2023
  • Hormones Matter: Considerations for Treating Women with Musculoskeletal Problems - Online Workshop with Susan Clinton and Carolyn Vandyken, Embodia Academy, April 2023
  • Intraabdominal Pressure and Strength Training - Online Workshop with Antony Lo, Embodia Academy, March 2023
  • Stop Hurting Women with Exercise - 5 Key Concepts to Help Female Athletes - Online Workshop with Antony Lo, The Physio Detective, Embodia Academy, March 2023
  • Advanced CPD in Modern Post Natal Assessment, Core Restore & Functional Exercise Programming - 6-Module Online Course with Jenny Burrell, Burrell Education, completed January - March 2023
  • ‘Go-To’ Physio Clinical Reasoning Challenge - Online Workshop with Dave O’Sullivan, The ProSport Academy, January 2023
  • Pelvis Pro Miniseries - Online Workshop with Sarah Ellis Duvall, Core Exercise Solutions, November 2022
  • Move Your DNA + Fundamentals of Natural Movement Immersion with Katy Bowman, Cambridge, UK, - 8 Hours, Aug 2019
  • Boomerang Pilates, MoveSMART Weekend Immersion with Alison Crouch, London, UK - 12 Hours, 7-8 June 2019
  • Womb Care Massage Course with Barbara Loomis, 8-Module Online Course - April - June 2019
  • Pilates for Modern Bodies - Fundamentals of Flexion - 6-Week Online Course with Alison Crouch, London, UK, March - Apr 2019
  • Abdominal Adhesions Massage Course with Barbara Loomis, 9-Module Online Course - Winter 2018/2019 2018
  • Move Your DNA: Going Beyond The Points with Katy Bowman, Online Course, 8 Hours, Oct 2017
  • CPT-RES Certified Personal Trainer - Restorative Exercise Specialist with Nutritious Movement Center Northwest, Sequim, WA, USA, training completed 2015-2017
  • Advanced Biomechanics 27-hour Online Course with Katy Bowman, Aug-Oct 2017
  • Franklin Method Shoulders and Neck Workshop with Mollie McClelland Morris, London, UK, 3 Hours, July 2017
  • Restorative Exercise Specialist Certification Week with Katy Bowman, Castricum, The Netherlands, 48 Hours, July 2017
  • Move Your DNA Weekend with Hilary McKown, Milan, June 2017 - 16 Hours
  • Balinese Massage Course with Rahasia Nyaman - Ubud, Bali, 30 Hours, Apr 2017
  • 6 Weeks Mindfulness Online Course with the University of Leiden (equivalent of MBSR) - Mar - Apr 2017
  • Yoga, Qigong and Mindfulness Immersion with Mimi Kuo Deemer, London, UK, 7 Hours, Aug 2016
  • 52 Weeks of EveryBody Biomechanics with Katy Bowman, online, Jan 2016 - Jan 2017
  • Anatomy Trains BodyReading 101: Visual Assessment with Tom Myers, Online course, Nov-Dec 2015
  • Total Yoga Nidra Foundation Course with Uma Dinsmore Tuli, Yogacampus, London, UK, 10 Hours, June 2015
  • Yoga Therapy: Practical Philosophy Of Healing with Mark Beuvain, Yogacampus, London, UK, 12 Hours, Jan 2015
  • Firing Order In Sequencing and Resetting The Body’s Internal GPS with Doug Keller, Yogacampus, London, UK, 32 Hours, Oct 2014
  • Assisting and Adjusting yoga workshop with Emma Henry, London, UK, 3 Hours, July 2014
  • Buggy Fit and Postnatal Exercise with GLL Better, London, UK, 4 Hours, July 2014
  • Yoga as Therapy 900 Hour Residential Teacher Training with The Yoga Institute Santacruz Mumbai, India, July - Nov 2012
  • Yoga Teacher Training with Yoga Federation of Serbia, 260 Hours, Apr - Dec 2011

My Story

My movement journey has been paved by various injuries and an unstoppable urge to learn in the process of overcoming them. I often felt my body was too fragile to follow my pace of life.

In my late twenties, I developed chronic lower back pain and lost sensation in a large part of my left foot. I was a corporate lawyer at the time and would spend hours drafting contracts and then trying to make up for it at the gym. Eventually, my lower back gave in. My neurologist said it was part of a slow degenerative process and I’d have to get used to it. But luckily, I didn’t. I decided to quit my lawyer job and follow my passion for movement instead. With little sitting and consistent physical activity, my lower back recovered and I restored the sensation in my entire left foot.

Over the years, I developed a particular interest in working with women. Specialising in teaching pregnancy and postpartum yoga and fitness classes, I continued teaching throughout my both pregnancies.

My first baby was born in 2013, by an emergency C-section that left me feeling weak and defeated. In the first days after the surgery, I could not straighten up to standing, but luckily, the scar healed well. After the routine 6-week postpartum check-up I got a green light for returning to exercise. So, I went straight back to teaching yoga and shortly after, took up teaching the advanced level at the gym.

I might have been around two months postpartum when, after demonstrating the “wild thing” - a pose that combines an inversion, twist and backband – I found myself with a fist-width hole in the connective tissue running across my midline. My linea alba was literally gone in that whole area. The belly was bulging and deforming at movements that used to be easy. It turned out I had a severe abdominal separation (diastasis recti).

For things to be even sadder, I’ve also gradually developed De Quervain’s tendinosis (“mother’s wrist”) on both my wrists and could not bear weight on my arms. It was incredibly frustrating to get re-injured and in pain every time I exercised or carried my baby.

It struck me how many postpartum issues you never ever hear about until you are unlucky to get them.

I spent 1.5 years being able to practise only very gentle pregnancy yoga. I visited numerous physios who had no idea how to help me. And then I got pregnant again. My second child was born in 2015, this time naturally, at home, but I had a 2nd-degree tear, lost a lot of blood and my abdominal separation was now around 6 fingers wide. Even at 1 year postpartum I felt weak and looked 5 months pregnant - a shopkeeper in a local grocery shop congratulated me on already being pregnant with the third child.

I was wondering if I would ever be able to practise anything but extremely gentle low-impact exercise. Doing even a simple sun salutation or dynamic lunges would leave me with back and hip spasms for days.

I found that there was little support offered by the healthcare and very little published research on diastasis recti, especially its connection with back and pelvic pain and dysfunction. The separation was seen as a cosmetic problem and most of the solutions focused on patching the gap instead of looking into what had caused it.

I couldn’t help wondering: if diastasis recti is just an aesthetic issue, why do I need a painkiller to sleep?

Feeling lost and unsupported, I studied across various disciplines to be able to manage my symptoms and continue to move and teach. I searched for answers across yoga, Pilates, soft tissue therapy, corrective exercise, sport science and medicine, physiotherapy and women’s health. Digging deeper and deeper eventually brought me to a master’s degree in sports science, focusing on biomechanics and mechanisms of injuries.

I realised that my diastasis recti was not a problem in itself, but a symptom of non-optimal intra-abdominal pressure management that would have sooner or later led to an injury.

If it wasn’t diastasis it would have maybe been a slipped disc in my spine, or a hernia, or a pelvic organ prolapse. I needed to learn how to use the pressure inside my belly effectively. This meant, first, I needed to go back to breathing and build back up from there.

I started from retraining my diaphragm, pelvic floor and deep abdominal muscles, restoring the mobility of my pelvis and the ribs. I learnt how to manage the pressure inside my belly when I move and then gradually added weight and built muscles to support me. Over time, I managed to restore a functional core and get stronger and more resilient than in my twenties.

Alongside my personal journey, I’ve worked with many people, especially women trapped in the cracks of an exercise culture that doesn’t understand nor prioritise women’s needs. I got fascinated by athletes’ postpartum return to sport, especially, training with diastasis recti, prolapse, hernias, incontinence and other pressure management issues.

I am passionate about using my knowlegde and personal experience to support people in reclaiming strong bodies that could support them in everything they want to do, from lifting their children to paddleboarding, weightlifting, rock climbing, surfing, skiing or running a marathon.