Men, women and friends beyond the binary – how much time do you dedicate to protecting your pelvic floor?
The answer is probably not much… yet the health of our pelvic floor is fundamental to the protection of various organs and bodily functions.
While mighty, it’s delicate too. Various things life throws at us can jeopardise the health of our pelvic floor…
…which is exactly why we’re introducing you to the benefits of yoga for pelvic floor health.
In this article we’ll answer:
- What is our pelvic floor?
- Why is it important to protect our pelvic floor?
- What weakens the pelvic floor?
- How can yoga for pelvic floor help?
- Safety precautions of using yoga for pelvic floor health.
- Yoga for Pelvic Floor: 6 Poses.
Let’s dive in!
What is our pelvic floor?
The pelvic floor is so important to our body’s functioning and wellbeing, yet not many of us could locate it, describe it or explain its functions. But don’t worry! That’s what we’re here for.
Everyone has a pelvic floor, and it’s located (surprise surprise!) in our pelvis. It’s made up of a complex network of ligaments, nerves, tissue and muscles which are crucial to protect the functioning of our bladder, bowel and sex organs.
For women the role of the pelvic floor goes even further, being vital to support the vagina and uterus.
What weakens the pelvic floor?
Disorders of the pelvic floor happen when the when it becomes weak or damaged, which can happen in a number of ways, including:
- Pregnancy and childbirth
- Having pelvic surgery or radiation treatments
- Repeated heavy weight lifting
- Long distance running
Why should we protect our pelvic Floor?
As mentioned, a healthy pelvic floor plays a key role in protecting our bodies, and the weakening or damage to the pelvic floor can lead to many issues, the four main pelvic floor disorders being:
- Urinary Incontinence, i.e. lack of bladder control.
- Fecal incontinence, i.e. lack of bowel control.
- Prolapse of our pelvic organs
How can yoga for pelvic floor help protect it?
This all sounds pretty intense and scary – but don’t fear, there’s hope to be had thanks to yoga for pelvic floor health.While our pelvic floor is out of sight, it can still be consciously controlled and thus trained and strengthened, just like our arms, legs or our core muscles can be. Many exercises exist designed to strengthen our pelvic floor – enter yoga for pelvic floor health!
Practicing yoga for pelvic floor not only combines mindful stretching, activating and strengthening exercises that improve the health of your pelvic floor, but also fosters a deep body awareness which helps to recognise problems and gauge improvement to the area.
Safety precautions of yoga for pelvic floor:
While yoga for pelvic floor health can offer much protection and improvement, some cases may require extra treatment or surgery, so always consult your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Constipation, straining or pain during bowel movements.
- Pressure and/or pain in your rectum.
- A weighty feeling in your pelvis.
- A bulge in your rectum.
- Muscle spasms in or around your pelvis.
Yoga for Pelvic Floor: 6 Poses
The number of yoga for pelvic floor poses is bountiful. Here are our favourite:
Warrior II is a great pose to improve pelvic alignment and relieve pain stored in the pelvis. Adding in conscious tightening of the pelvic floor for 10-30 seconds, resting for 10-30 seconds, then repeating compliments the pelvic floor strengthening in this pose.
- Stand with legs wide on your mat, feet parallel and about three foot apart. Raise both arms out from your sides, keeping them straight and parallel to the earth below.
- Keeping your shoulders down and back, turn your left foot out about 90 degrees so it’s parallel with the long side of the mat, while right foot is parallel with the short side.
- Bend the left leg into a lunge so your knee is stacked stacked above your ankle. Turn your head to the left in line with your left arm to gaze over your hand.
- Stay here for 3-6 deep breaths then repeat on the other side.
#2: Legs up the Wall (Viparita Karani)
This calming and gentle inversion relieves your pelvic floor from the pull of gravity and the weight of your pelvic organs, allowing it time to relax and repair.
- Position the short end of your mat straight against a wall, placing a thick bolster (a yoga block, folded blanket or towel will do!) at the same short end.
- With your head furthest from the wall, lie on your back with arms spread comfortably at your side.
- The bolster should be supporting from your upper pelvis to the bottom tips of your shoulder blades, while the shoulders themselves rest on the floor.
- Remain here for anywhere between 2–20 minutes.
#3: Chair Pose (Utkatasana)
As it engages and tests the balance and control in your legs, the Chair pose draws on the muscles in your pelvic floor to assist stability as you lower into a seated position and rise to stand.
Again, adding in conscious tightening of the pelvic floor for 10-30 seconds, resting for 10-30 seconds, then repeating will further train and strengthen the pelvic floor.
- Beginning standing with feet hip distance apart extend your arms straight in front of you, parallel to the ground and slowly sink into to a seated position.
- Tuck your sit bones under towards your pubic region and stretch your fingertips forward. Your torso should be tilted forward, back straight and knees above but not in front of your toes.
- Sit deeper to intensify the stretch and pause for 3 deep breaths. Then slowly and with control rise back up to standing.
- Repeat this 4 to 5 times.
#4: Happy Baby Pose (Ananda Balasana)
Ananda Balasana not only helps open and elongate the pelvic floor, but is also a great pose to encourage the muscles of the pelvic floor muscles to let go of unconscious holding tensions and patterns.
- Begin lying flat on your back, then slowly lift your legs up, bringing your knees towards your chest. Your ankles should be stacked directly above your knees.
- Stretch both arms out between your bent legs and grasp both big toes with three fingers (known as a toe-lock).
- Keeping your entire back and shoulder blades against the floor, widen your legs to let your thighs fall alongside your torso, soles of the feet facing up to the sky.
- As your tailbone naturally rises off the mat, press your heels up, your sit bones down and very gently pull back with your arms.
- Introduce gentle rocking movement from side to side by slowly shifting your body weight from one side to the other. Remain here for between 2-10 minutes.
#5: Yogi Squat (Mālāsana)
An incredible hip-opener, this yoga for pelvic floor pose also helps to open and relieve tension from the pelvic floor, while also relieving tension in the lower back and shoulders.
- Begin in a crouched position, feet just wider than your hips, tailbone between your ankles. Your feet can be flat or heels can rise off the floor – whatever is comfortable and allows you to maintain balance.
- Place your palms in prayer position and bring them to your chest so that your arms are on the inside of your legs. Press hands firmly together while also pressing elbows against your inner thighs.
- Hold for 1-5 minutes, breathing deeply as you do so.
#6: Bridge Pose
Bridge pose is great for activating and strengthening the pelvic floor, as it activates and engages the pelvic muscles to keep the hips raised while unsupported.
Remember to add in some conscious tightening of the pelvic floor for 10-30 seconds, resting for 10-30 seconds, then repeating to maximise the effect of this pose.
- Lie on your back with knees bent, legs and feet hip distance apart, arms resting alongside your torso and soles flat on the floor. Then bring both feet towards your buttocks.
- Pressing down through your feet, inhale as you raise your hips, raising from the pubic area rather than the belly button.
- Shuffle your hands together to clasp them under your back, flat against the mat. Broaden your shoulders and open chest to tuck your upper arms further underneath you.
- Keep thighs parallel to each other, while you press into your heels to help raise the back of your thighs and your buttocks even higher to intensify the stretch.
- Stay here for 3-4 deep breaths if you can. Lower back down, rest for 30 seconds to a minute. Repeat alternating between raised and rested 4-8 times.
Need more yoga advice for pelvic conditions? Then check out Your Pace Yoga!
From Yoga for Pelvic Floor to Yoga Sitting on the Floor
You’ve mastered yoga for pelvic floor – so let’s move to a different type of floor. Why not try our best seated poses? Read this: The 6 Best Yoga Sitting Poses