Hi my name is Vanessa Bourne and I have been a Yoga teacher for 15 years. I am here to share with you the 5 Best Pelvic Floor Exercises and to give you a greater understanding of this area of your body.
Our pelvic floor is the ‘Hammock’ of muscles that holds all our internal organs within our body. We don’t often think anything of it until things start to go wrong and even then, many people have no idea of how to find it or how to do anything about it. Studies say that 50% of women will experience urinary incontinence at some time or other regardless of whether they have had a baby or not, it can also be a common reason for low back pain, amongst other things.
The problems are usually caused by one of two things, our pelvic floor muscles may have grown weak and lack muscle tone, this is known as ‘hypotonic’ (this often happens as a result of childbirth, overstretching) or they can be overly tight from being constantly told the ‘squeeze, squeeze, squeeze’ without consciously relaxing.
We have 16 muscles that make up the pelvic floor and they all need to be exercised and then consciously relaxed, like any other muscle in the body, in order to stay healthy and functioning well.
Your pelvic floor does not work alone, it is linked to your diaphragm and they should both move up and down with every breath you take – in a beautiful, gentle dance.
Firstly, you must learn to locate your pelvic floor, this involves you sitting and visualising it and learning to breath WITH the natural movement of the muscles, NOT against them.
If you know you have specific problems or have recently had surgery, please ask your Dr or Physiotherapist before doing these exercises but these are gentle and generally suitable for most people.
Sit quietly and observe your breath
Imagine a ‘Hammock’ that attaches on 4 corners of your pelvis
(2 x sitting bones, pubic bone in the front and Tailbone behind)
These 4 points define the perimeter of your pelvic floor space.
As you breath gently, with softness, start to see if you can feel the natural outward and downward pressure on Inhalation and natural slight lifting of the pelvic floor at the end of an Exhalation as both the pelvic floor and Diaphragm move up and down together.
As you relax and start to feel this, keep it going for a little while and start to feel the rhythm, continue to breath but start to gently accentuate the beginning and end of each breath with more relaxing and engaging.
Inhale – Relax the pelvic floor and allow it to sink downwards
Exhale – Gently start to draw up the pelvic floor to a brief hold/pause
Before relaxing it on the next Inhale etc etc.
You need to get the hang of this exercise before moving to the 5 following Pelvic Floor Exercises.
It is important to consciously use your pelvic floor in everyday movements, so I am going to show you exercises for standing, sitting and lying down. Do each exercise 8 times and gently building up a little at a time as you feel able.
- STANDING – Wide legged Forward Bend x 8 (Inhale relax in pose, Exhale contract fold forward with a flat back and arms out to the side)
- SITTING – Butterfly Pose x 8 (Inhale, relax pelvic floor and tummy muscles with bent knees and soles of the feet together, let knees flop out to the sides, Exhale squeeze the knees towards each other, draw pelvic floor up and tummy muscles back towards spine)
- LYING DOWN – Bridge Pose, the inversion is very good if your pelvic floor is weak as it reduces pressure in the area, this is a good exercise to start with if you can’t easily draw up the pelvic floor when standing. Bend knees, feet flat to the floor hip width apart, Inhale relax, Exhale as you draw up pelvic floor, squeeze tummy back to spine, press feet into the floor and raise the hips towards the ceiling, mindfully rolling up the spine, Inhale relax all internal muscles, roll back down the spine and lower the hips back to the floor.
- GENTLE SPINAL TWISTS – Lying down, Inhale relaxing the pelvic floor, bring knees up over you, Exhale and gently allow the knees down to one side, arms out to either side of you, palms facing up. Stay in the twist, support knees with a cushion if you feel you need this to relax and do the same pelvic floor Breathing exercises as above. Repeat 4 breaths in and out with the contraction of the pelvic floor and tummy muscles and the relaxing of the PF with legs to the right and the left. This helps to access the pelvic floor from slightly different angles to make sure our exercises are complete.
- REST AND VISUALISATION – most important to return to the simple exercise we did at the beginning of just visualising the pelvic floor working softly up and down with the breath, no squeezing involved and spend a few minutes visualising your pelvic floor just relaxing, softening and expanding to fully relax the muscles.
REAL LIFE: Things you can do off the mat, you could start to get into the habit of incorporating these pelvic floor exercises into your every day, as many times as you like.
- When Standing in a supermarket queue, doing your teeth or boiling the kettle
- Driving the car
- During exercise – consciously squeeze up during walking running, tennis etc and relaxing at the end
- Picking up a Toddler – Exhale and squeeze up before you bend down to pick up the child and let go when you have returned to standing
- Sneezing – Lift and hold when you feel it coming on and release after the ‘ah-choo’ has passed!