Ditch the Kegels..an alternative approach to the pelvic floor

One in four women has some type of pelvic floor disorder. While those statistics only represent the presence of prolapsed organs or incontinence, there are many other issues that can be affected by a dysfunctional pelvic floor.

Your pelvic floor can cause hip issues, back pain, and bowel issues. Heck it can even cause knee issues. Those of us in the movement world know this small piece of territory is an important but often overlooked component to moving well.

The pelvic floor is one of the six horizontal diaphragms of the body. Those areas of the body where the muscles are in transition zone between the long vertically oriented muscles ( say the hamstrings and the trunk muscles). They are generally areas where there is a change from one part of the body to another and they moderate how forces are transferred through these areas.

If you think the only remedy to pelvic floor issues are Kegel exercises, I want to offer another way of thinking about all things..."down there." Pulling up and in, lifting your pelvic floor like an elevator, trying to hold your urine, are all ways of creating more tension in an area that in many people is already too tense, especially in times of a pandemic. We're all a little bit on edge.

 

Often the issue is too much tension!

Making something that's already too tight even tighter, is for many people , misguided advice. I know it's what is prescribed for many women but for me it just made things worse. An approach that restores MOVEMENT to this area is far more beneficial than one that uses one movement only, such as the venerable Kegel.

Pregnancy is the main life event that affects the pelvic floor. Back in the day,  they just stitched my generation back up and sent us on our way. Now, there's so much more knowledge about the pelvic floor and it's function and why in many countries ( not in North America) women receive post natal pelvic floor training, from a  physiotherapy Pelvic Floor Specialist.

 

Learn how to breathe yourself into relaxation

Your pelvic floor is made up of three layers of muscle, which when under stress, get tighter. In my own movement practice, I've found it helpful to focus on relaxation, and finding a smooth breathing rhythm ,which calms my nervous system.  I have never yet changed any stress induced dysfunction without some type of relaxation practice. Period. Apart from calming me down, the breath also has a special role in creating movement...down there.

Inhalation, initiated by the dome shaped muscle of the diaphragm ( another horizontal diaphragm), creates not only a lengthening of the Pelvic floor muscle fibres but also moves the spine and creates intra abdominal pressure along with the muscles of the abdominal wall and spine. Intra abdominal pressure is like an air bag that stabilizes your spine against the movements of your arms and legs, when you are exercising, lifting or doing other activities. It should occur reflexively without thinking , but many people need to retrain the delicate coordination of the  core muscles and develop core sense.

 

Get out your umbrella

The pelvic floor can be compared to an umbrella. When the umbrella is opened up it works , so too the pelvic floor..when we can allow the pelvic floor to expand by opening up the bones of the lower pelvis, then, the muscles around the pelvic floor and hip joint naturally activate.

 

Are you a tight arse?

Too many people have their sitz bones squeezed together in a butt grip, thereby turning off the pelvic floor and therefore their core. Yes, we are a culture of "tight arses," says Aussie Physiotherapist Josephine Keys.

 

I have found that creating an awareness of the movement of the pelvic floor muscles via the sitz bones and hip joint, allow the hip joint to activate the core via the pelvic floor . Learning to move from the bones of the pelvis helps to naturally engage the muscles of the hip joint and pelvic floor. In my Yoga and Pilates classes we initiate movements from the bones rather than the muscles, especially the sitz bones.

 

A movement program focusing on an awareness of this area of the body can create more ease of movement and in doing so release tension, improve blood flow and circulation.

 

Our bodies just want us to give them the communication they crave. Connect the mind to the body and understand that coordination is a more powerful ally to the body than strength or flexibility alone.