So how do we estimate the health of our pelvic floor? Here are some signs that this area could use some extra love:
Unexpected urine, bowel movement or gas during exercise, coughing, laughing, lifting or sneezing
Trouble completely emptying bladder when peeing
A sense of "pushing down" on your bladder during urination
Overall poor sensation
Pain during sex, difficulty with orgasm, low back and pelvic pain, frequent urination
Prolapse- the muscles of the pelvic floor weaken to the point that the bladder, bowel and uterus, drop into the vagina
In our culture there is a need for "tight." Whether its the appearance of our skin, glutes or abs, there is a notion that tight is right. For the pelvic floor, and abdominal muscles as well, this is not necessarily the case, rather what we seek here is even tonicity.
The list above provides symptoms that include issues for a hyper (too much) and hypo (too little) tonicity of the pelvic floor. Rather than go into detail about the each, I will focus on practices to gain awareness in this area.
...A passive way to strengthen and build awareness of the pelvic floor.
Since the pelvic floor is the base of our core, it is important that when we sit, we give our core a solid foundation. So whatever position you are in, go ahead and find your diamond. There are step-by-step instructions on how to find your diamond in the previous post. So this means your pubic bone (North), tailbone (South), and two sit bones (East and West). Now connect all those dots in your minds eye and think about where your diamond is shining? What direction is it pointed? Now plant both of your feet on the floor and sit so that your diamond shines towards the earth. But wait, there's more!
Start to rock your pelvis forward and backward. You can feel your sitbones now right? If not, rock side to side, or place your hands under the glutes to feel them. If you rock all the back, notice how this curves your spine and puts you into a "slouch" position. Now rock all the way forward so it feels like you are sticking your booty way out. We want a balance here. This means a slightly forward tilt of the pelvis rather than the way you may be used to sitting. In other words, the North part of your diamond (the pubic bone) ever so slightly drops towards the ground. ***Note this is different for everyone, but 99% of people I work with, learn/benefit from this little tilt in their pelvis. In fact, people with low back pain always comment how this feels more supportive! In reality this position basically puts your pelvis and spine in its neutral position, which is just tough for us to find when in a seated position. Neutral is the key word here. You could even try to feel the neutral curve in your lumbar while standing, then try to recreate it while seated.
With that said, how does it feel to sit on your sit bones like so? Now relax your low belly and take a deep breath. Your core is now supported.
Try it out! Especially if you find yourself seated multiple hours in a day
Sitting like this should feel good in your low back. It allows for our spine to hold its natural/neutral curves. It should feel supported.
This should automatically feel like you have "better" posture, or that you are more aware of it.
It is a balance between sitting on your sacrum in couch potato pose verses what your lower back may feel like when you're twerking...
If this is new to you, or if you know that posture is something you're working on, your back muscles may grow tired easily! So give yourself a break, but keep incorporating this into your lifestyle.
Pelvic Floor Awareness & Movement
So now that we are seated here ever so gracefully, lets take our attention to the muscles of the pelvic floor. Feel free to glance at the diagram above to add a visual aid to this exercise.
Pretend you are peeing, letting the pelvic floor release as well as the lower belly. Now pretend to stop the urine flow! Feel how this is an inward sensation. If this is difficult to feel, try laying down with your knees bent.
Notice the use of an accessory muscles such as the abdomen, glutes and legs... try just focusing on the pelvic floor. Be patient with yourself.
If it feels difficult to isolate, try squeezing the whole pelvic floor (includes anus) and then release.
The main priority, before we can strengthen the pelvic floor, is to simply become aware of it! Where are these muscles and how does my body use them? How we use muscles is what results in the tonicity of the pelvic floor.
Once you are able to isolate the muscles, build a little routine. Pick a few times per day, and throw in some reps!
Note that nothing above the navel tightens while you practice these exercises. Try placing a hand on your abdomen to feel if it is working too hard.
Make sure to release and relax the muscles after contracting them, for that can be half the battle. Remember than we are dealing with a spectrum of hyper and hypo tonicity.
I've also heard some positive things about Jade Eggs. I haven't tried one out, but could be another resource.
These exercises can be done anywhere, but as you get to know your body, take some time for yourself. Find a quiet place to listen and learn from your body.
Your Feet. Your Foundation.
So its really not just your feet, its the whole inner leg line. This area is a spectrum between the medial (inside) arch of the foot, to the inside of the knee and thigh, all the way up to the pelvic floor. Its also our gait, the way we walk. Our feet work to orient our pelvis/knees and vise versa.
So how do we become more aware of this?
Highlight (put this area in your brain space) the inner leg line while doing certain exercises.
Get your feet open
Place a tennis ball or rubber ball underneath the foot while seated and roll it all around, front to back and side to side. For more sensation try standing.
Foot Domes. These are little domes you can stand on to help balance the arches of the foot. (More to come on these in the next post.)
Place both your feet toward the same direction and play with sensory awareness from the medial arch, to the knee, to the inner thigh and up towards the pelvic floor. What does this even feel like? Becoming aware of these subtleties can be difficult. See if you can generate a feeling of "lift" that begins from the arches/lower leg and travels up the inner leg line. Notice what this does to your pelvis and spine.
Standing poses- is your foot in alignment with your knee and hip? Feel your big toe in standing poses, this will help gain awareness to the medial arch.
Bridge pose-feel the distribution of weight through your feet. Highlight the inner leg line as you set up and begin to take the pose.
Consider the phrase "tuck your tail." What does this do to your structure? How does it orient your pelvis?
The pelvic floor is a space in our bodies to create awareness around.
If you found any of these exercises difficult, note that just simply having the knowledge that this area of the body needs some extra love is already so powerful!
The more awareness we cultivate, the more clarity we have towards healing.