Let’s talk pelvic floor! That lovely group of muscles that hold up your organs and, if you’re pregnant, a baby.
These muscles are intimately connected with so many other functions in the body– back health, posture, overall strength and stamina, and of course sex and childbirth. They are also important in controlling that ever-present, little discussed, pesky problem of urinary incontinence that so many folks have trouble with after birth.
So, you say, “how do I keep these muscles strong and healthy?” You exercise them, just like any of the other muscles in your body. If you do a Google search, you will likely come up with a bajillion different ideas about how to do this. A bajillion? Really? Okay, maybe not. But there are a lot. To help you save time wading through a bajillion ideas, here are a few simple moves that you can do to for just a few minutes every day to help keep these muscles going strong.
1) Marching: This is one of my favorite places to start with pelvic floor exercise. It’s simple but oh so challenging in all the right ways. Lie on your back, with your feet flat on the floor hip distance apart. Your knees will point up to the ceiling. Line your ankles up under your knees. Starting with a natural curve in your spine, move the back of your waist/low back toward the floor 1/4 inch (this is called neutral spine). Then, inhale and verrrrrry slowly lift your right foot off the ground 1/2 an inch. Do this without moving the hips or the rest of the body at all or with as little movement as possible. Put one hand on each hip so that you can feel what you’re doing. Concentrate your attention on the muscles of your pelvic floor, inside, just above your pubic bone. Even if you can’t feel them, they’re there I promise! As you exhale, slowly lower the foot to the ground. Repeat with the left foot. This is one round. Do twenty rounds, or work up to this, without moving the hips at all. When that feels easy, work toward 100 rounds.
2) Pelvic lifts: Stay in the same position as you were for Marching– feet flat on the floor hip distance apart, knees pointing up to the ceiling, ankles under the knees. Create neutral spine by moving your waist toward the floor, as mentioned above. Bring your focus to your pelvic floor, inside, just above your pubic bone. While keeping neutral spine, using your pelvic floor, inhale and lift your hips and pelvis off the ground about four inches or the width of your hand when your fingers are all together next to each like so:
With your hips lifted, squeeze your thighs together firmly and then release them. Exhale and lower back down with neutral spine and using your pelvic floor. This is one round. Work up to 20 rounds. When that feels easy, work toward 100.
3) Low boat pose: This one is especially challenging for me, but I know that over time it will be immensely helpful. Lie down on your back, legs out straight. Create neutral spine. Breathing, lift your head, just the tops of your shoulders (the bottom tip of the shoulder blades will stay on the floor) and your feet off the floor only a half an inch each. Extend your ankles so that your feet are extended. Breathe, breathe, breathe. Stay here for 15 to 20 breaths. Lower down and take a few deep slow breaths and then repeat. Do this up to three times. If you are really struggling to keep neutral spine when doing this pose while lifting both feet, you can lift one foot at a time. Just make sure to alternate to the other foot lifted when you do the next round. Equal amounts on each side.
So there you have it! Do these everyday and I promise you will see a difference in no time. I know I have felt and seen a huge difference in just a month of doing these everyday. One of the big differences for me has been starting to feel a stronger connection between the upper and lower halves of my body. Creating this connection brings a new awareness that is so important during childbirth, and in life in general.
Let me know how it goes for you– send me an email or leave a comment in a couple of months about your experience with these moves.
Do you have any other exercises that have helped you improve the strength and flexibility of your pelvic floor? Share them in the comments section below. Because… Happy pelvic floors for everyone!
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