At-Home Strategies to Improve Your Relationship with Your Pelvic Floor
Whether you are in mandatory isolation, more comfortable staying at home, or just plain busy working from home, learning how to connect with your pelvic floor can have a number of health benefits (regardless of sexual orientation).
Below are just a few examples of how addressing your pelvic health can benefit you:
- Reduce symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse
- Improve recovery postpartum
- Improve bladder and bowel control
- Improve recovery after prostate surgery
- Improve your confidence and overall quality of life
- Improve your sex life
- Reduce low back pain, hip pain, and pelvic pain
- Decrease symptoms of urinary urgency and frequency
As you can see, there are not many downsides to taking care of your pelvic health! Below are a few key exercises you may try to better connect with your pelvic floor. To understand what exercises are most appropriate for you, we recommend you seek professional help from a registered pelvic health physiotherapist. Please discontinue any movements that are painful or do not feel right in your body.
Get Good at Breathing!
Perhaps the most undervalued exercise is learning to promote healthy breathing patterns. Often with chronic stress or pain, our bodies begin to breathe “up” into our chests instead of “down” into the belly, ribs, back and pelvic floor.
Begin by sitting tall (a chair or pillow works well) or laying down on your back with your knees in a bent position and your head supported. Regardless of your position, we are looking a body alignment where your pelvis lives beneath your ribs, and you have a gentle curve in your low back.
Inhale to Relax:
Bring one hand to your belly and the other to your ribs. As you inhale through your nose, focus on the feeling of your ribs expanding, your belly softening, and your pelvic floor (or the tissue between your sit bones) lowering down. Check to see if you are compensating by raising your shoulders or if your stomach is drawing in. This kind of breathing may take practice, but it allows your diaphragm to move optimally, which in turn will benefit any strengthening and relaxation exercises that you enjoy. Once you feel comfortable focusing on the inhale in this way, you may add part 2.
Exhale to Engage:
As you exhale, purse your lips and begin to breathe out as if blowing out a candle. This breath should be long and audible. As you do this, notice how your stomach begins to draw in and your ribs gently narrow. You may even notice a lifting sensation in your pelvic floor; you can gently emphasize that lift and visualize drawing the muscles between your sit bones to the crown of your head (a kegel). Notice whether you are compensating by squeezing your bum or holding your breath. Relax this engagement to begin again with the inhalation. Practice this for 2 minutes.
Draw your big toes together, and comfortably widen your knees. Send your bum back to rest on your heels if your body allows this (you may also put a pillow between your heels and your bum) and drop your forehead down. This position is great to gain a better awareness of your pelvic floor. As you inhale, think of the breath you practiced above. The goal is to soften down into the pelvic floor (the muscles between your sit bones) and visualize this softening and dropping. Let your exhale be relaxed this time, without focusing on any engagement. Aim to hold this for 2 minutes.
Stack your knees under your hips and wrists under your shoulders. Try to relax your toes and find pressure through your fingertips so as to not collapse into your wrists.
Inhale to drop the belly and lift the head. Visualize keeping length in your spine as your stomach lengthens.
Exhale through pursed lips, long and slow. Let your spine round as you do so, head hanging heavy. Allow the exhalation to guide your stomach to draw towards your spine, feeling these muscles as well as your pelvic floor draw in. Keep your bum relaxed. Practice these ten times.
Bent knee fall out
This exercise helps to establish pelvic floor and abdominal strength. Lay on your back with your knees bent. Place your hands on your hip bones – the goal here is to keep your hips completely steady; doing so will require you to use your deep core muscles. Remembering to breathe, drop one knee out to the side as far as you can without any sideways or up/down movement of your pelvis. This may not be very far, and that’s ok! This takes practice. With the same careful intention to remain steady, draw your knee back to centre. Repeat on the other side for a total of 16-20.
Remember that although these are excellent introductory exercises for most people, we all have different health and movement histories. Please don’t hesitate to consult an expert to learn exactly what movements are right for you. Happy breathing!
Continence Foundation of Australia (n.d.). Working your pelvic floor. Retrieved from http://www.pelvicfloorfirst.org.au/pages/working-your-pelvic-floor.html
Dufour, S., Vandyken, B., Forget, M., & Vandyken, C. (2019). Association between lumbopelvic pain and pelvic floor dysfunction in women: A cross sectional study.
Written By: Claire Harris