Hello, pelvic floor!
Unless the topic of incontinence happens to come up in your yoga class, how would you know about it?
True, it’s not exactly a favorite topic of conversation amongst friends, but I’m all about discussing what is real. So, did you know that one third of women experience pelvic floor dysfunction?
Sometimes I bring this up in class and mothers are really relieved to know that it is so common.
Here’s what you need to know:
· Incontinence is only one aspect of pelvic floor dysfunction, the umbrella term for disorders of the pelvic floor muscles.
· In the case of urinary incontinence (bladder leakage), the muscles may have grown weak (hypotonic), usually due to the kind of overstretching that can happen in pregnancy and childbirth. When the muscles are overly tight (hypertonic), other conditions can result, such as urinary frequency and urgency, interstitial cystitis, irritable bowel syndrome, painful intercourse, lower-back pain, and prostate problems in men.
Over the last 60 years, Kegels have been the most prescribed exercise during pregnancy and afterwards to strengthen the pelvic floor, requiring you to squeeze, squeeze and…do some more squeezing. If you don’t love kegels, you may be relieved to know that to strengthen the pelvic floor, you also need to relax it.
Yoga offers an holistic way of maintaining pelvic floor health. We can start really simply by building awareness of the muscles in the pelvic region, as follows:
Step 1: Visualise the muscles of the pelvic floor as a hammock that hangs from the four corners of the pelvis.
Step 2: Feel both of the sitting bones. Feel the pubic bone in the front and tailbone in the back. These four points define the perimeter of the pelvic floor space.
Step 3: With the hammock image in mind, you can begin to work with the breath to feel the hammock move with the breeze of the breath.
In class, we always start our practice with yogic breathing, which naturally tones the pelvic floor.
Stay with me while I explain how it works! When we breathe in, the diaphragm moves down, and so does the pelvic floor; when we breathe out, they both move up. If you sit quietly and observe the breath, you’ll notice the natural widening outward of the and downward pressure of the diaphragm on inhalation, and a natural lifting of the pelvic floor at the end of the exhalation. Once that pattern has been identified, you can begin to accentuate each end of the breath cycle, relaxing and engaging. It’s subtle, so be gentle with yourself, take your time.
You may have noticed that I always include asanas (yoga postures) that naturally tone the pelvic floor, so it becomes effortless and even, dare I say it, fun, while we strengthen, restore and relax our whole beings.
Thanks for reading. I hope this has been useful. As always, I’d love to know what you think, stay in touch. With love, Reni