People mistakenly believe that pelvic floor weakness only affects child-bearing women. However, women, men and even children can suffer from a weak pelvic floor!
Our current sedentary lifestyle is one cause of weak pelvic floors.
Since so many people suffer from weakness, it’s important that we learn how to strengthen the pelvic floor to prevent weak or hypotonic pelvic floor symptoms. However, when we complain of incontinence, we are given a simple prescription of kegels with no explanation or instruction.
KEGELS ARE NOT SIMPLE!
Kegels are a complicated exercise. Done incorrectly, they can do more damage than good. And what’s worse, some people have TIGHT pelvic floors and shouldn’t do kegels at all!
Basically, there are three types of pelvic floor dysfunction:
- Hypertonic – a TIGHT pelvic floor
- Hypotonic – a LOOSE pelvic floor
- Hypertonic AND hypotonic – One part of your pelvic floor may be too tight, while another part is too loose.
Before starting kegels, check out the symptoms below to determine if you have a weak or tight pelvic floor.
Hypertonic, Tight Pelvic Floor Symptoms
- Most painful symptoms
- Pain during sex
- Pain during urination
- Urge incontinence (difficulty urinating)
- Difficulty initiating urination
- Pelvic pain
- Decreased libido due to pelvic floor tightness
- Vaginal Pain
- Difficulty with conception *this is a new finding and needs further research
Hypotonic, Weak Pelvic Floor Symptoms
- Stress urinary incontinence (involuntary leakage)
- Pelvic organ prolapse
- Decreased libido due to weak pelvic floor muscles
- Difficulty achieving orgasm due to weak pelvic floor muscles
- Childbirth and a sedentary lifestyle can often lead to weak pelvic floor muscles, but not always! You can reverse this!
Remember, it’s first important that we end any pain symptoms before strengthening the pelvic floor. If you suffer from pain during sex or trouble urinating, you may have a tight pelvic floor. Check out this article on ways to end the pain and release your pelvic floor.
Once you’re pain free, start to strengthen the pelvic floor through various exercises and yoga poses.
Remember, a lot of people have hypertonic AND hypotonic pelvic floors. Your pelvic floor can be too tight in some areas and too loose in others. If this is the case, start with the pain free routine then add the strengthening exercises once you’re pain free.
If you suffer from severe pain, consult with a physical therapist that specializes in pelvic pain. She can perform massage and prescribe specific exercises tailored to your body.
3 MYTHS ABOUT KEGELS (and how to do them correctly)
MYTH: To perform a kegel, squeeze everything down there as hard as you can.
TRUTH: A kegel is much more complicated than this. To perform a kegel, sit down and visualize your pelvic floor as a bowl or sling. Just like in the picture below, gently pull this bowl up.
Gently pull up this bowl or your perineum (the place between the vagina and anus) and hold for 10 seconds. Release your pelvic floor for 10 seconds. Repeat 10x. If this is difficult at first, stick with the imagery and use your breath. Do not struggle and do not bear down. The releasing is just as important as the strengthening. You should never push down or hold your breath. Allow your breath to flow and engage just the pelvic floor.
MYTH: Everyone should do kegels.
TRUTH: NO! If you find that kegels cause pain or increased bladder or bowel frequency or urgency, stop! It may mean that the pelvic floor muscles are too tight. See a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic floor dysfunction and read this to gently relax your pelvic floor.
MYTH: To perform a kegel, act like you’re trying to stop the flow of urine.
TRUTH: Using the muscles to cut off the flow of urine only works ONE section of the pelvic floor, the urethral sphincter. If you’ve been practicing this way with no results, don’t worry. You’re not alone. Proper kegeling takes time, effort and a deeper understanding of the exercise. Read on to work the full pelvic floor.
HOW TO DO A PROPER KEGEL
Proper kegeling engages the pubococcygeous (PC) muscle. The PC is part of the levator ani which is part of the pelvic diaphragm. Basically, we are trying to engage all of the pelvic floor muscles, not just the urethral sphincter.
In yoga, we call this contraction mulabandha.
To perform mulabandha, lie or sit down. Then find your perineum, the area between your vaginal opening and anus.
Gently lift the perineum (the pelvic diaphragm), then lift the urethral sphincter (like you’re trying to hold your pee), then lift your anal sphincter (like you’re trying to hold your poop). Hold for 10 seconds, then release for 10 seconds. Repeat several times throughout the day.
This should all be very gentle. You shouldn’t be bearing down or gritting your teeth.
THIS IS NOT EASY!!!
It can be very difficult to control all three of these areas. It takes a lot of concentration, focus and visualization.
Don’t forget to release between sets! Doing too many kegels can lead to a tight or hypertonic pelvic floor.
As you become more proficient, advance to standing kegels. Then complete kegels while jumping, doing lunges, squats, etc.
BE PATIENT WITH YOUR BODY.
Your pelvic floor didn’t become weak overnight so it will take time to re-strengthen these muscles.
For you moms out there, your body is a miraculous vessel that created a human!!! That’s so freaking cool and amazing!! Don’t expect too much, rather stick with these exercises every day and notice how you slowly improve over time. Consistency is key!
Yoga Teachers – Are you ready to help your yoga students Restore Their Pelvic Floor? Attend my online workshop – Teaching Yoga for the Pelvic Floor- to learn stretches and strengthening exercises for the pelvic floor. By the end of this workshop, you’ll have the tools to teach your own workshop or class series!