Is Your Pelvic Floor Overachieving, Underachieving or in Balance?
So much in our lives is about balance. The medical word for that is homeostasis, which is the tendency of the body to stay in balance. Every healthy human has control of the muscles throughout the body. As a physical therapist, whose professional passion is focused around a group of muscles in the pelvis called the pelvic floor, I think a lot about how to rehabilitate them. One approach is to consider is how a yoga program could work in conjunction with these muscles within the pelvis. We can learn to be mindful of what we do with these muscles.
What Tips the Balance in the Pelvic Floor Muscles?
When the pelvic floor muscles are out of balance, I think of them as overachieving or underachieving. An overachieving pelvic floor is usually chronically held or pressured by the body to be used without a break. This overuse of the pelvic floor muscles is just like the fatigue or burnout that happens if you work overtime, all the time. The pelvic floor takes on an “I can do it all” attitude, and the muscles fire and tighten constantly, losing their flexibility. It becomes difficult to release them at all and it also can cause surrounding muscles to work poorly, or not at all. This can lead to many painful conditions or a bladder that is stressed by the contestant tension. Yoga poses and exercises that encourage release and opening of the muscles work best for this condition.
When your pelvic floor underachieves, it can be because of disuse and/or lack of proper understanding about what it can do. Teaching your pelvic floor to work is like training for a new job. Once you learn how to engage the pelvic floor muscles effectively, they can work with your other core muscles to support your bladder, bowel, spine and internal organs, at the bottom of the pelvis. Unfortunately, the pelvic floor can also “underachieve” when it is overstretched or injured by childbirth, surgery or trauma. In both circumstances yoga poses and exercises can activate the muscles.
Balance with Yoga and the Pelvic Floor
Yoga focuses on two key areas that can help the pelvic floor. The first tenet of yoga that can improve pelvic floor function is the focus on breathing. The diaphragm and the pelvic floor muscles work together, so improving breathing techniques can improve recruitment or release of the pelvic floor musculature. The second tenet of yoga is engaging an energetic lock, or Bandha, specifically the Mula Bandha. The Mula Bandha engages energy in the pelvic floor. While it is not specifically a pelvic floor contraction or core stability, it is associated with tightening the pelvic floor. You might think of the pelvic floor contraction as the bridge to creating the Mula Bandha.
Do You Want To Learn More?
Power Your Pelvis is a workshop combining information about the pelvic floor anatomy with yoga techniques. It is an excellent resource for those wanting more awareness of the pelvic muscles, looking to balance their pelvic floor, or bring experience to their yoga practice or teaching. If you live in the Seattle area, consider signing up for Power Your Pelvis workshop to learn the basics. The next class is Friday evening May 12, 2017.
As always, if you are a potential patient experiencing back or SI pain, pelvic pain, bladder, bowel or sexual problems, please share this information with your health care provider, you may need specific physical therapy evaluation and treatment. Power Your Pelvis is directed towards education, improved function and injury prevention, rather than evaluation and treatment. This link will help you find a local pelvic floor physical therapist. If you live in the greater Seattle area we welcome the opportunity to see you for an appointment at my office.