Hi all! So as the holiday season is here, things truly start kicking into high gear. Very often we let our fitness and yoga routine slide replacing it with wine, rich food and friends. Now I think that the replacement sounds pretty fantastic….but sadly after the holidays pass it can leave you not really feeling like you are at the top of your game. So here is another super easy core exercise that you can slip into your day at anytime!
Hi all! So over the past few posts i have been talking about the pelvic floor at length, Now its time to integrate that knowledge into practice and do some….Core work!!!!! Since very often its easier to show than to say, I have made a series of videos that you can watch and use in your daily life . Everything is very targeted, quick and relatively painless. These exercises are very simple- but at the same time very precise. In order to get the benefit, you must engage the core (pelvic floor up) correctly. If need be re read the last post before watching the video, it may help….and if all else fails- remember the magic words “keep the ribs pulling in.” So without further ado here is the video….
Take a look at our friend above in it's perfect posture and notice how you are sitting or standing at this moment. Are your shoulders rounded and you chest caved in? Or perhaps your shoulders are rolled back but to the point that your chest is puffed out- Either of these postures are deviations from a neutral spine* and are compensations for a weak core.
Uh oh I feel like I really dated myself with that title (but I have to say does Ms. Ru Paul ever fall out of fashion? ). So okay, last post I talked about what the pelvic floor is and why we need it. Now we need to figure out how to access it. Many of us have been told that an effective way to work these muscles is to do the dreaded KEGAL. Doctors love to blithely tell us to do them and move on. Well though Dr Kegal was onto something, I feel that this exercise is not concentrated enough; focusing on the pelvic floor structure from the outside in, rather than the inside out. So let’s do exactly that, work our pelvic floor from the inside out. In order to do that we have to know what the pelvic floor Feels like. The following exercise helps you not only work the pelvic floor, but really feel it as well…. BONUS!
(You will need a yoga block these happen to be my favorite…..super firm and sturdy)
1) Place the yoga block in between your upper thighs. Lift your toes and press actively into all four corners of the feet (see the aside pic of my un manicured foot- the energy points are in black).Then place your spread toes back onto the mat, pinkie toes first.
2)Next, place the knee over the second and third toe. During the rest of this exercise your knees never move….they are CEMENTED THERE! You will start to feel the energy of this posture moving up your shins, and into the quads.
3)Now, squeeze that block with the thighs as hard as you can. (you didnt forget to keep the energy in your feet, right?). Due to the knee placement, the legs will want to bend a little and your butt will stick out a tad. WOOHOO! you are doing it correctly.
4)Now it’s MAGIC TIME! We are now going to feel the AWESOMENESS that is the pelvic floor. Place one hand on your belly and one hand on your sacrum (low back). Push the sacrum down, while pulling the belly in and UP . When I say pull the belly in and up, use that front hand to do so. What you are doing is creating a tad bit of a pelvic tuck. As long as you are pressing onto those feet, cementing the knees and squeezing the block, you have now officially engaged the deep pelvic floor!
5) To keep all of this in place, bring the ribs IN towards each other. If you don’t understand what this means then feel your body, by placing your hands on your rib cage and bringing the ribs in towards each other. Keep everything engaged….feet, knees,thighs, tailbone, belly, ribs, and release the hands.
6) Stand with the hands by the side body, softening the backs of the shoulders down the back body and extending through the crown of the head. This is just a fancy tadasana, but if you are doing it correctly, all parts of the core body are really working and lifting. Take between 15-20 deep long belly breaths, and giggle because you are breaking out in a sweat just standing there.
So there you have it….you have officially said hello to your pelvic floor, and have a very specific exercise to work it. Next post we will learn even more to add to your pelvic floor arsenal, and learn how to continue to work that pelvic CORE without ever having to even think about the word crunches…..
Okay, I’m going to let in on a little secret. I am kinda obsessed with the pelvic floor. SHOCKER, I know, I know….but yes- I think the pelvic floor is amazing. I am it’s biggest cheerleader- I actually have on my YEAY PELVIC FLOOR! t-shirt as I am writing this. So I want to convert everyone to pelvic floor believers…as a lot of what I teach stems directly from (both figuratively and literally) this musculature.
So the first question that needs to be answered before you can get on the believer train to pelvic floorville, is to know what the pelvic floor actually is. (Disclaimer: I’m about to get real up in here and use words like clitoris and anus, so if hearing anatomical words for your body makes you feel a little hysterical, stop reading NOW. You can still keep referring to to these parts as “the things that do that stuff”sssssshhhhh don’t get upset, you’re okay) So the pelvic floor (known from now on as the PF) consists of three group of muscles:
- Superficial perineal layer: innervated by the pudendal nerve
- Superficial transverse perineal
- External anal sphincter (EAS)
- Deep urogenital diaphragm layer: innervated by pudendal nerve (for women this is the layer that contains the tendons that hold the clitoris in place)
- Compressor urethera
- Uretrovaginal sphincter
- Deep transverse perineal
- Pelvic diaphragm: innervated by sacral nerve roots S3-S5
- Levator ani: pubococcygeus (pubovaginalis, puborectalis), iliococcygeus
- Obturator internus
When you work on the PF, you will almost exclusively be focusing on the deepest layer, known as the Pelvic diaphragm, even more specifically the Levator Ani. However, it is good to know the way the muscles work. The superficial layer is just that, superficial. It’s main function is to contract and relax the orifices present (so for all of us the the anus and urethra and the vagina 50% of the time). It covers the next two layers which form two overlapping diamond shaped sheathes of muscle that connect at the pubic bone in the front, the sits bones on the side, and the tailbone in the back.
Now that you have muscled (oy- no pun intended) through all of the anatomical aspects of the pelvic floor, lets now get to the good stuff, what does it DO? First, it holds up and cushions the organs in the pelvis and lower abdomen. Second, the pelvic floor controls the urge to urinate or defecate by sending signals to the bladder and colon and opening and closing the urethra and anal canal. Third, the pelvic floor is the mechanism of sexual function, contracting muscles to respond to arousal and to enhance enjoyment.
First it holds up and cushions the organs in the pelvis and lower abdomen. This is a pretty big statement….so Ill say it again It HOLDS up the organs. Woah! that’s a pretty big task. So basically the PF is the foundation of the body. For women this is even more profound, because when they are pregnant this is the group of muscles that holds the baby in the body and keeps the cervix intact. Second the the pelvic floor controls the urge to urinate or defecate by sending signals to the bladder and colon opening and closing the urethra and anal canal. This is why there is a direct link between incontinence and a weak pelvic floor. Third, the pelvic floor is the mechanism of sexual function,contracting muscles to respond to arousal and enhance enjoyment. Conversely, when the pelvic floor is weak, there is a dulling of sexual arousal in women (remember where the clitoris is connected?) as well as erectile dysfunction in men.
SO! I feel like I made a pretty convincing case on why we should all pick up our pom poms and start cheering for our pelvic floor. However, though pompoms are fun….they don’t strengthen the pelvic floor. In my next post I will talk about how to strengthen this part of the body. (ps ladies, Kegels are NOT a very effective way to do so….)