Beyond Kegels: Revitalise Your Pelvic Floor with Breath – Blog One

The first step in restoring the health & function of your pelvic floor is rebalancing your breathing.

Why your pelvic floor needs you to breathe more

Your pelvic floor does not work alone and needs a variety of stimuli to know what to do and when. When those stimuli are lacking, your pelvic floor may not be as spontaneous and responsive as you’d like. In these circumstances, we are often led to believe this is because the muscles are weak and pelvic floor strength exercises will help. I’m here to shed some more light and explain why it’s a bit more complicated than that. 

In this blog series, I will share with you some of the ways to stimulate and revitalise your pelvic floor so that it becomes the alert, vigilant and spontaneous pelvic floor of your dreams.

A jellyfish if how you should imagine your diaphragm

Your pelvic floor does not work alone

Your pelvic floor does not work alone in so many ways, and we are going to focus on its good friend, colleague, and influencer, the diaphragm. Your diaphragm is a large muscle running horizontally across your ribs in a dome shape that looks a bit like a jellyfish. Your diaphragm contracts up and down all day long, expanding your ribs as you inhale and supporting the function of your lungs.

In the case of your pelvic floor, it is meant to influence it to contract down and up as well. It sounds straightforward, ish. Well, it is, unless there is something in the way stopping your diaphragm from influencing your pelvic floor. Something like your belly button, your abdominal muscles, or even your ribs. If you are like me, you will have a tiny weenie habit of pulling in your belly button. 

This is a hard one because, like me, you probably pull in your belly button and your abdominal muscles because you think it will help a myriad of things, from giving you a flatter tummy and toned abdomen to helping your pelvic floor. This is a mic drop moment because, sadly, pulling in is inhibiting these things. I know it’s hard to read when you’ve been doing this for many years. The good news is that when you let it go, you feel relieved, and your pelvic floor and diaphragm will make friends again. 

Claire practising pilates to improve her pelvic health

There needs to be a flow of movement and communication

I remember the moment I was told to pull my tummy in by a girl I idolised in the year above me at school, and then it was reinforced in my training as a dancer and in the many Pilates classes I attended. I thought that it was standard. I have since discovered that pulling in like this can prevent this beautiful symbiotic relationship between the diaphragm and pelvic floor.

There needs to be a flow of movement and communication, like water flowing freely through a hose pipe, and we all know what happens when there is a kink or a blockage in the hosepipe. There is a backup; it gets strained and tight on one side of the kink, and then there is no flow or freedom of water beyond that, and that open end of the hose is none the wiser for it. That is your pelvic floor in the centre of your pelvis, with no idea that it should be gently rising and falling all day long in coordination with your diaphragm above. 

How do you get out of that habit?

Ok, so now that you know that pulling in doesn’t help your pelvic floor or revitalise it, how do you get out of that habit? Because, if you are like me, it is a strong habit. Here’s my tip to let it go: find a place in your home or at work that you will pass at least twice a day, maybe through a certain doorway, a sign on the wall, the kettle, or even the loo. Once you have picked a place that will be your trigger to let it go, each time you pass that place, let your belly button go, and why not check if you are clenching your glutes while you are at it too? They commonly go together, and I am often asked by the women I work with in the membership why they clench and how to stop. It all comes down to knowing you are doing it and creating a new habit. 

kegal eggs used for pelvic floor exercises

How to revitalise your pelvic floor

The next step once you have engrained this habit is to wake your pelvic floor up. It has not been getting the information passed to it from the diaphragm, so it may be hibernating or dormant and needs waking up.

This is what Dr. Kegel did with his pelvic floor stimulator device, which then evolved into Kegel exercises. The positive thing that has stood the test of time is the stimulation, which is called biofeedback, meaning bits of your body receive outside stimulation so your brain and body become aware of an area again. This awareness then allows that area of the body to restore function spontaneously, which is where it differs from traditional strength exercises like Kegels. 

A really simple way you can revitalise and stimulate your pelvic floor is to roll a small hand towel and sit on it so that it’s lengthways from your pubic bone to your tailbone. Ideally, sit on it on a dining room-style chair for about one to four minutes per day. Once you have sat there breathing for one to four minutes, remove the towel, sit on the chair, and notice your new-found awareness. That’s your pelvic floor, ready to work with your diaphragm. 

To Be Continued…