Contrary to popular belief, we are NOT walking around with weak pelvic floors as some of us have been told. If our pelvic floors were not functioning correctly we would not be standing, let alone walking.
Our pelvic floors function whenever we move as part of the total symphony of muscle movement in our bodies. What we do need to do is become more aware of this area, and be conscious of how we use it.
One of the best times to become acquainted with this area is during pregnancy. It is usually at this time that most of us realize we have pelvic floors and that we need to be exercising them!
Most pregnant women are instructed by their health care providers to begin an exercise named “kegels”, which is in essence, “pulling up your pelvic floor”. In order to find these muscles, women are guided towards stopping the flow of urine, and by doing that hopefully, find their pelvic floors. While this is true to a certain extent, what we are literally finding is one small part of our pelvic floors, namely, the sphincter muscles. These are the muscles that form a ring around the urethra and the anus, closing the holes when contracted, thereby providing some form of continence.
Kegels are important up to a point but we need to be working the pelvic floor muscles more functionally. And it is easier than you think.
During pregnancy, a woman should be aiming for preparing her body for the labor and delivery of her baby. This isn’t a good time to be working out hard and trying to stay in shape. This is a time of releasing and opening the body in order to facilitate the changes that are taking place in the body. This is especially true of the pelvic floor which is paramount in helping expel the baby out of the birth canal.
The pelvic floor will be better able to do its work of pushing the baby out, if it is both strong AND flexible. The pelvic diaphragm or levator ani muscles wrap around the baby’s head to help support it on its journey out of the womb. If the mother has been concentrating on keeping this area strong, chances are that the pelvic floor will not be able to stretch enough to be functional.
The women most likely to be in this category are the elite athletes, dancers and fitness/pilates instructors. A balanced workout that includes both toning and stretching of the pelvic floor is going to be very beneficial, especially for those women looking to have a natural birth.
In order to realize just how simple it is to work the pelvic floor muscles, you must first have an understanding of where they are. If you just think that one part of these muscles attach from the tailbone to the pubic bone and then another set attach from sit bone to sit bone, you will know that certain movements will work these muscles without much effort on your part.
The Pelvic Diaphragm or Levator Ani muscles attach from the Pubic bone to the Coccyx. These muscles contract from back to front.
Pelvic Tilts: This exercise pulls the pelvis into a posterior tilt. In order to do this the pelvic diaphragm will contract towards the pubic bone and aid in the movement. When done on the ball, the effect on the pelvic floor is intensified. During pregnancy this is one of the exercises used to tone the pelvic floor.
The Uro genital triangle. Some of the pelvic floor muscles in this layer attach to the sit bones. The muscles contract towards the midline.
Using the breath to activate the pelvic floor muscles.
Breathing is a great way to activate the pelvic floor and can be used as a warm up to a Pilates session.If you think about the sit bones gently pulling together on the exhale, you have essentially activated the pelvic floor.
• Lie supine with the knees bent, feet hip width apart and place both finger tips on the sit bones.
• Inhale into the fingers using verbal cuing to indicate the breath flowing through the pelvic floor.
• Exhale and initiate the out breath by visualizing the sit bones coming together
• Repeat desired number of times