Give Your Pelvic Floor Some Love This Valentines Day!

PF

You may often hear your Pilates instructor say ‘engage your pelvic floor’ during your Pilates class but your not quite sure what that really means. You’re not the only one! The pelvic floor is one of the most important muscles in the human body but yet most people don’t know enough about it or it’s function. That is why we love to educate our clients about their pelvic floor in their first sessions with us so they can continue strengthening and engage through these muscles for long term success!

 

What Is The Pelvic Floor?

The pelvic floor is consisted of muscles, ligaments and connective tissue acting as a hammock supporting your organs within the pelvic region. The pelvic floor is placed at the base of the pelvis, keeping your organs in place. What may happen when our pelvic floor is weak? Well, think of it this way. What happens if you shake a heavy box with a weak bottom base? Items in the box are going to fall through. See what we mean? A strong pelvic floor can keep the organs exactly where they should be.

 

How Do You Know If Your Pelvic Floor Is Weak?

Some people don’t even know they have a weak pelvic floor until they experience one of the following symptoms:

  • Slight urination while coughing/sneezing/jumping/running
  • Sudden urge to go to the washroom
  • Pain during sex
  • Hip, back and knee pain
  • Prolapse (associated with women's health)

These symptoms can cause people to stop doing activities in fear discomfort occurring but it doesn’t have to be that way.

 

Why Do We Need To Keep The Pelvic Floor Strong?

Developing a strong pelvic floor comes hand in hand with developing a strong core (this is where Pilates can help!). We need to make sure that we are able to strengthen and coordinate these muscles together so that we are capable of performing basic actions such as jumping, running up and down the stairs and simply exercising.  

There are 3 components to a healthy pelvic floor.

Strength- We want to make sure we are strong in the pelvic floor to do the everyday activities we want to do.

Timing- this is coordinating your pelvic floor with your other muscles to ensure you engage your pelvic floor before you squat, lift a heavy box, cough, etc...

Flexibility/release- it is just as important to learn how to relax and soften these muscles as it is to strengthen them. The exercises later on will help with creating this balance.

 

How Do You Strengthen The Pelvic Floor?

There are many exercises that your pelvic floor may benefit from but first we need to make sure you can engage the pelvic floor first. Read the cues below and see what resonates with you best! You may find it easier to engage the pelvic floor by lying down first and performing these exercises.

  • Think of drawing your sit bones together and up
  • Pretend as if your trying to stop the flow of urination
  • (For women) pretend as if you are trying to pick up a blueberry using your pelvic floor muscles
  • (For men) imagine you're walking into a very cold pool

 

How can Pilates help?

Pilates is known for developing core strength which in turn develops pelvic floor strength as well. We practice proper breathing to ensure we are working on coordinating your muscles in time for the action while strengthening them. You’ll notice an increased difference not only in your core strength but also your pelvic stability.

Below are three exercises you can do at home to work on increasing body awareness of pelvic floor and develop strength. We have also posted videos of these exercises on our YouTube Channel, Instagram and Facebook page so don’t forget to check those out!

 

Exercises

 

1.Breathing

Starting Position: Lying down on your back, spine in a neutral position and legs are hip distance apart. Place your hands on the side of the ribcage.

 

Step 1: Inhale into the back and sides of the ribcage (you should feel your hands lift as the ribcage expands).

Step 2: As you exhale all of the air out, lift up through the pelvic floor using one of the cues above.

Step 3: Inhale, releasing and relaxing your pelvic floor and repeat to step 2 again.

 

Repeat this exercise 6-10 reps. Careful that you are not squeezing the glutes as your are doing this exercise.

Modification: to stretch out the hips and release the pelvic floor, reach the knees out to the sides and feet stay together. If this is uncomfortable, feel free to place pillows underneath the knees for support. You should feel a stretch in your hips. Continue with the breathing as your legs stay in this position.

 

2.Leg Lifts

Starting Position: Lying down on your back, spine in a neutral position and legs are hip distance apart. Place your hands down by your sides.

Step 1: Inhale to hold this neutral position.

Step 2: Exhale lift right leg up to a 90 degree bend in the hip and knee maintaining neutral in the spine.

Step 3: Inhale to stay in this position but release the pelvic floor.

Step 4: Exhale as you lower the leg down, engaging through your pelvic floor without shifting out of the neutral.

Switch legs each time. Complete 3-5 reps on each leg. This now adds in a mobility piece to the pelvic floor exercise increasing the challenge.

 

3.Shoulder Bridge

Starting Position: Lying down on your back, spine in a neutral position and legs are hip distance apart. Place your hands down by your sides.

Step 1: Inhale to hold this neutral position.

Step 2: Exhale lift both hips up towards the ceiling, pulling up through the pelvic floor. Make sure spine is in neutral.

Step 3: Inhale hold this position, expanding through the sides of the ribcage.

Step 4: Lift up through the pelvic floor as you lower the hips back down into a neutral position in the spine.

Repeat 5-8 reps.

 

As always with exercising at home be careful and listen to your body.  

 

Once you get better at recruiting your pelvic floor muscles try incorporating engaging it during sports you play and any other activities you do.  You will notice you feel stronger and more stable through your movements. Love your pelvic floor and feel the benefits!

 

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