The pelvic floor is a very strong group of muscles, which form the shape of a hammock, which sits under the pelvis, attached to the pubic bone to the base of the spine. Both men and women have pelvic floor muscles; it’s just the shape of the canopy, like the pelvis, which is different between the sexes.
The pelvic floor muscles can become weaker as we ‘progress through life’ but also from sustained and regular over-exertion, pregnancy and giving birth. So, by regularly squeezing and exercising these important muscles, the contractions help to maintain pelvic floor strength and to prevent prolapse of the bowel, bladder and womb. Having and maintaining a strong pelvic floor really assists the abdominal, back and hip muscles too, improving the core. Your core muscles are the stomach, back, thighs and behind.
Practicing Pilates can really help to improve continence as all 34 Pilates exercises strengthen muscles deep within the core and pelvis, working muscles from the inside to outward. Pilates targets the corset muscle (the Transverse Abdominis) supporting your back and internal organs.
So, how do you actually SQUEEZE your pelvic floor?
Well, the squeeze needs to focus on pressing together the front of your pubic bone to the end of your tailbone (coccyx) and at the same time, PULLING UPWARDS from the inside, as you tighten the front to the back. This squeeze, activates your glutes (the behind muscles) too, so you will feel these tighten. Engaging your pelvic floor is the same as trying to halt the flow during urination. This in itself though, is not a method to exercise the pelvic floor, as it could cause irritation to the urethra. But knowing it’s a similar action to this, will help you to locate and actually feel where your pelvic floor is, so that you can target the area and squeeze it effectively.
You can practice pelvic floor exercises in many places easily, without even really needing to stop what you are doing but it does require a bit of concentration! It is easiest to practice squeezing the pelvic floor muscles when you are sitting comfortably and evenly on your sitting bones (the base of your pelvis). Sit upright and push the pelvis forwards slightly, so you are sitting tall, maximising your height even though you are seated. This activates your spinal stabilizer muscles, which run either side of the spine and lengthens your backbone. Keep your arms relaxed and rest your hands on your thighs or knees. Try to squeeze, especially when you draw up the pelvic floor towards your head, for between 5-10 seconds, remembering to breathe normally, don’t hold your breath; just your pelvic floor! Release the squeeze and you will feel the glutes and the pelvic floor relax and give. Do make sure you rest and relax for the same amount of time before repeating another squeeze. You can also practice a series of shorter squeezes, to pulse your pelvic floor if holding the contraction for 5-10 seconds, if too intense to begin with.
If you have any concerns about bladder weakness or prolapse, do not hesitate to contact your doctor for advice.
So, Happy New Year and here’s to 2021! May your spine feel fine and your pelvic floor be strong!
Wishing you health and happiness.