This is a fair question. I’ve yet to find a yoga studio that offers something along these lines, or something that is dedicated to the pelvic floor. Before I took this class I really didn’t even know what this term meant, or that I should’ve been taking care of it. I think we tend to overlook just how detrimental our hips and hamstrings are to our day to day lives both in the present, but also long-term.
What is the pelvic floor?
The pelvic floor is the muscular base of the abdomen, attached to the pelvis.
The Continence Foundation (Health Organization) explains the pelvic floor as follows:
“The pelvic floor muscles stretch like a muscular trampoline from the tailbone (coccyx) to the pubic bone (front to back) and from one sitting bone to the other sitting bone (side to side). These muscles are normally firm and thick. Imagine the pelvic floor muscles as a round mini-trampoline made of firm muscle. Just like a trampoline, the pelvic floor is able to move down and up. The bladder, uterus (for women) and bowel lie on the pelvic floor muscle layer.”
The pelvic floor muscle layer has hole for passages to pass through.There are two passages in men (the urethra and anus) and three passages in women (the urethra, vagina and anus). The pelvic floor muscles normally wrap quite firmly around these holes to help keep the passages shut. There is also an extra circular muscle around the anus (the anal sphincter) and around the urethra (the urethral sphincter). Although the pelvic floor isn’t visible to us, it can be consciously controlled, trained, and strengthened, much like our arm, leg or abdominal muscles.
Who cares if it’s weak?
You should my friend! Weakened pelvic floor muscles mean the internal organs are not fully supported, AKA you may have difficulty controlling the release of urine, feces (poo) or flatus (wind). Common causes of a weakened pelvic floor include childbirth, obesity and the associated straining of chronic constipation. Pelvic floor exercises are designed to improve muscle tone and prevent the need for corrective surgery. The pelvic floor can be weakened prominently from pregnancy and childbirth, constipation, chronic coughing, heavy lifting, vigorous, high-impact exercise, age and being overweight. Though, even if you haven’t consistently struggled with one of these factors, it is always good to take preventative measures and give your body the support that it needs.
Why does it matter whether we stretch & strengthen it or not?
Stretching and working the pelvic floor muscles are vital to the body’s overall alignment and health. Think about it, your pelvic floor is the base for so many other muscles within your body. If that is strengthened and aligned, then we’re providing a solid, supportive foundation for the rest of the body.
Pelvic floor muscles provide support to the organs that lie on it. The sphincters give us conscious control over the bladder and bowel so that we can control the release of urine, faeces (poo) and flatus (wind) and allow us to delay emptying until it is convenient. When the pelvic floor muscles are contracted, the internal organs are lifted and the sphincters tighten the openings of the vagina, anus and urethra. Relaxing the pelvic floor allows passage of urine and feces. These muscles are also important for sexual function in both men and women. They especially provide support for the baby during pregnancy and assist in the birthing process.The muscles of the pelvic floor work with the abdominal and back muscles to stabilize and support the spine. This alone is enough reason for us to attempt to work on this area of the body.
It’s an amazing thing to take part in a class where you’re guided and talked through the health benefits of each pose as you do them. You begin to understand the significance of what you’re doing and appreciate your time in the studio. Come get realigned and sink into each pose tomorrow morning (Sunday, March 5th) at 11:30am for Opening Hips & Hamstrings with owner and instructor, Susan Emery. And join us in taking gratitude in doing something great for your body, mind, and soul.