If you have ever taken a Yoga, Pilates or fitness class of some sort you have most likely been told to engage your pelvic floor muscles. Now I didn't know what the hell this meant until I got pregnant. Pregnancy can be tough on the pelvic floor as can childbirth. This is why it can be so scary to sneeze or laugh too much at the end of pregnancy or right after giving birth!
Many women ignore this area all together because talking about the V word is awkward and asking about it is even more weird. So lets just get this out of the way now, without feeling awkward or scared to say it - Vagina. See, we're not 13 any more. It's okay.
Kegels are exercises that tighten your vagina but they have nothing to do with your actual vaginal muscles. They strengthen the pelvic floor muscles which surround your vagina.
So how do we help it? How do we engage it?
Well before we talk about how to engage it, let's talk about what it is.
What is the pelvic floor muscle and why is it important?
A woman's pelvic floor is a set of crossed muscles supporting the bladder, womb and colon. The urine tube (front passage), the vagina and the back passage all pass through the pelvic floor muscles.
Your pelvic floor muscles help you to control your bladder and bowel. They also help sexual function and reproduction. Now if you've ever given birth you'll know why it is so important to keep up those daily pelvic floor exercises. A weak pelvic floor can result in small accidents during sneezing, laughing, running etc - we've all seen the tenor lady adverts ;)
The males pelvic floor is slightly different but just as important. See the diagrams below.
What can affect your pelvic floor muscles?
Pregnancy and childbirth, slouching when sitting (which pushes the internal organs down), repeated incorrect lifting of heavy loads, chronic constipation (leading to forceful pushing, aggravated by modern toilets, on which we sit as on a chair, instead of squatting as nature intended), incorrect abdominal exercises, frequent and strong coughing (in case of a chronic lung condition for example) are all known to affect the pelvic floor muscles.
How can we keep our pelvic floor healthy?
Basically, as with any muscles, you can’t just focus on toning, you must also relax. Some people need more relaxation, others more toning. Pelvic floor exercises are often referred to as Kegals. Before we can exercise it, we need to be able to find it.
To find your pelvic floor muscles start by sitting or lie down. Squeeze the ring of muscle around the back passage as if you are trying to stop passing wind. Now relax this muscle. Squeeze and let go a couple of times until you are sure you have found the right muscles. Try not to squeeze your buttocks. Using this squeeze/hug and lift approach is exactly what we mean when we say to engage that pelvic floor If you don’t feel a distinct “squeeze and lift” of your pelvic floor muscles you can ask for help from your doctor, physiotherapist, or continence nurse. They will help you to get your pelvic floor muscles working right.
In the case of pregnancy and childbirth, practicing specific pelvic floor exercises which focus on elasticity of these muscles such as taught in the pre- and postnatal classes are proven to be helpful.
While doing pelvic floor muscle training
One Great Kegal exercise you can do easily at home:
1. Grab your yoga block
2. Stick it between your legs
3. Hold a Plank pose, but only hold it for as long as you can squeeze your inner thighs
Try hold the block in plank for as long as you can 5 of 6 six times a day for fast strengthening results.
When we engage our pelvic floor muscles we aim to keep the thighs relaxed but this one is an exception to that rule ;)
Please comment below if you found that in anyway helpful.
Are you doing daily Kegals?
Are you worried you are not doing enough?
Let me know below and feel free to share <3