The pelvic floor encompasses several muscles that run like a sling from the tailbone forward to the pubic bone at the front of the pelvis. These muscles have several functions. They support our organs (especially bowel, bladder, and uterus), help control bladder and bowel movements and even have a role in sexual function. If that wasn’t enough for one group of muscles, they also are part of our deep core muscles and help contribute to stabilizing our pelvis and spine during upright movements. Age, a sedentary lifestyle and pregnancy (even if you had a c-section), can lead to pelvic floor changes. This is where pelvic floor physical therapy and yoga come into play.
Yoga teaches us how to mindfully strengthen, relax and stretch muscles throughout the body to keep them in equilibrium. This balanced approach makes it an optimal technique for strengthening the pelvic floor muscles and addressing pelvic pain.
The deep breathing taught in yoga is crucial to pelvic floor rehab. Deep breathing techniques when performed correctly, engage the diaphragm – a large, dome-shaped muscle that sits under our lungs. When we take a diaphragmatic breath, this muscle contracts and compresses the organs in the abdomen down towards the pelvic floor. In response, the pelvic floor relaxes to accommodate this downward pressure creating a passive stretch on these muscles. When we inhale, these muscles passively return to their starting positions.
But, that’s only one of the benefits of deep breathing. Regularly performing various deep breathing techniques actually can help improve pelvic floor coordination (crucial before beginning a strengthening routine) and decrease our body’s stress response. For many people, they carry their stress as muscle tension in the pelvic floor which can lead to pain and pelvic floor dysfunction. Decreasing the stress response, lowering the blood pressure and decreasing the heart rate can all lead to reduced muscle tension.
The body exists as a delicate ecosystem and as important as breathing is to pelvic floor health, so is proper stretching. An overly tight pelvic floor can be affected by the surrounding muscles and stretching in yoga can help elongate those muscles. Muscles in the low back, hips, legs, and abdomen are all intimately connected with the pelvic floor muscles. Reducing tension in these areas while also working on reducing tension directly in the pelvic floor can lead to improvements with issues like urine and bowel leakage and pelvic pain.
Yoga can help build strength that complements the work done in physical therapy. Remember the pelvic floor has many functions including playing a key role as one part of our core. It helps stabilize us during trunk movements and static positions that require balance. Practicing yoga regularly increases your core strength since you are required to hold your body in poses that challenge your balance and move your body through dynamic movements that require significant control from your core. The poses help to create more stability within the pelvic floor which allows them to stay relaxed and strong during daily activities.
Meditation and Relaxation
Yoga has been a known stress reducer for many centuries and used as spiritual development practice to train the body and mind to self observe and become aware of your own nature. Having pelvic floor issues can make it hard to relax when you are in pain, and often we tend to tighten our muscles or clench when we are uncomfortable. Meditation and relaxation are essential in order to assist in pelvic floor physical therapy by reducing a person’s sensitivity to pain. Together, these methods help relieve tension and decrease stress signals throughout your body, giving you a chance to focus on healing.
Blossom Yoga Class
Although difficult to discuss and sometimes painful, pelvic floor dysfunction is a highly treatable condition with pelvic floor physical therapy and the proper yoga techniques. Led by Donna Wise, Certified Yoga Instructor, Provenance offers a focused, gentle yoga practice every Wednesday from 5:45 PM – 7:00 PM. With a spotlight on relaxation, stability, and pelvic floor awareness, these mindful yoga classes help all participants with balance, posture, and strength to aid their pelvic health practice. From beginner to advanced – all levels are welcome!