The pelvic floor is a mystery to many. It is part of our anatomy that we often don’t pay much attention to until it demands our awareness in the form of pelvic pain, incontinence, and discomfort during intercourse, among other unpleasant, attention-grabbing symptoms.
All sexes can experience pelvic discomfort and disorders. The good news is, by strengthening your pelvic muscles, you can prevent future issues and correct current problems. Plus, there are some pretty surprising benefits of strengthening your pelvic floor that go beyond your physical body.
Everything You Need to Know About Your Pelvic Floor
Physiopedia defines the pelvic floor as “a dome-shaped muscular sheet separating the pelvic cavity above from the perineal region below.” For individuals with female sex organs, the pelvic cavity holds the uterus, vagina, bladder, and rectum. For individuals with male sex organs, the pelvic cavity supports the prostate, bladder, and rectum.
If you think of the pelvic cavity as the home of these organs, then the pelvic floor is the foundation of the house, thereby making it the foundation of everything above it—your entire torso, neck, and head.
The Physical Role of the Pelvic Floor
The pelvic floor is responsible for several essential functions.
- Supports vital organs, including the small and large intestines, stomach, bladder, liver, kidneys, and sex organs
- Stabilizes the spine
- Steadies the hip joints
- Controls the bowel and bladder
- Helps during birth to guide the baby down the birth canal
- Plays a key part in sexual function
- Contributes to the amount of sensation that is felt during intercourse
How Do You Know If You Have a Weak Pelvic Floor?
When your pelvic floor muscles are weak, very noticeable physical symptoms can manifest.
- Loss of control over your bladder or bowel
- Urine leakage when you sneeze, cough, laugh, or exercise
- An organ prolapse
- In individuals with female sex organs, this feels like a bulge in the vagina or a feeling of heaviness, dropping, or a discomfort
- In individuals with male sex organs, this feels like a bulge in the rectum or feeling like you need to use the bathroom but don’t actually have to go
- Lower back pain
- Painful sex
- Mild to severe discomfort in the pelvic area
What Can Cause Pelvic Floor Problems?
Pelvic floor problems occur when the pelvic floor muscles are stretched or weakened and also when they are too tight. Some of the most common culprits of pelvic floor problems include age, obesity, being pregnant, giving birth, physical inactivity, overexercise, heavy lifting, chronic coughing or sneezing, and previous injury to the pelvic region.
A couple of these culprits go hand and hand—excessive weight and a sedentary lifestyle. Approximately 31% of the global population over the age of 15 does not engage in enough physical activity. Sedentary lifestyles have a significant impact on the overall health of the world population and directly contribute to the obesity epidemic. This dangerous duo can create a hard-to-break positive feedback loop; inactivity can lead to obesity, and obesity can lead to more inactivity.
4 Surprising Benefits of Strengthening Your Pelvic Floor
A weak foundation inevitability leads to an unstable structure, whether it’s a building or your body. A weak pelvic floor can also contribute to fragility or instability in the realm of your mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. By strengthening your pelvic floor, you might be surprised to experience some unique psycho-emotional benefits.
Balance Your Root Chakra
In Eastern traditions, the pelvic floor is known as the root chakra or Muladhara in Sanskrit. Your Muladhara is your first chakra and is responsible for your sense of safety and security in the world. Your root chakra is your grounding chakra. When your Muladhara is unbalanced, blocked, or weakened, you might feel fear, anxiety, and instability, as well as experience problems in the colon, bladder, prostate, and lower back.
Deepak Chopra recommends the following exercises, practices, and poses to help bring vital energy and strength to your root chakra:
- Kegel exercises
- Bandha yoga
- Pavanamuktasana (knee to chest pose)
- Jana Sirsansana (head to knee pose)
- Padmasana (lotus flexion)
- Malasana (squatting pose)
A strong and balanced root chakra, or pelvic floor, will lead to feelings of peace and stability. As you will soon learn, Kegel exercises are one of the best ways for women to strengthen their pelvic muscles.
Alleviate Stored Stress
Structural integrative specialist Lauren Roxburgh explains that the pelvic floor is one of the body’s primary stress containers. Many of us have become essentially locked out of this emotional region of our body. Over the years, we’ve stored stress, trauma, worry, and all sorts of other hard feelings here, and because we are so disconnected from this place, the situation has become the equivalent of losing the key to an important lockbox.
Fortunately, you can be your own locksmith! By strengthening your pelvic floor, you will make a new key to open that stress box and release all those unnecessary negative holdings.
Mend Mental Health
As we’ve discussed, the primary problems associated with a weak pelvic region include chronic pain, unpleasurable sex, and untimely and potentially embarrassing bladder or bowel movements. Dealing with these types of issues undoubtedly can affect your mental health. According to one study, patients with pelvic pain suffer from psychological conditions at a much higher rate compared to their peers. Feeling like you lack control over your bowel and bladder movements can lead to general feelings of insecurity, social anxiety, and disconnection. And as for painful sex, well, that obviously isn’t serving anyone well.
It is important to keep in mind that there are instances where medical intervention (to help mend physical damage caused by prolapse) and/or professional pelvic floor physiotherapy are necessary. However, by acting proactively, it is possible to prevent pelvic floor issues or improve existing problems through pelvic muscle strengthening. By eliminating or preventing pelvic floor problems, you can prevent or lessen mental health issues that stem from your pelvic floor.
Form a Deeper Relationship with Your Body
According to an article published in The Guardian, “up to a third of women will experience a pelvic floor problem—but numerous surveys show many women have no idea what it is or its purpose. One survey of 1,000 women found that one in six didn’t know where it was, and a quarter didn’t know what it did.” Pelvic health physiotherapist Amanda Savage exclaims that “it’s a part of the body people haven’t been given nearly enough information about.”
Germany’s self-proclaimed “most famous belly dancer,” Coco Berlin, got in touch with her pelvic floor after a trip to Egypt. She studied the dancers there and concluded that they were so much better because of their deep connection with their pelvic floors. When Coco reconnected with hers, she said she began to feel more confident, embodied, and sexually satisfied. She felt more robust, less stressed, and like she really owned her body.
Rekindling a relationship with your pelvic floor will invariably help you reignite a deeper connection to not only your physical body but your emotional and spiritual body, too.
How to Support Strong Pelvic Muscles
Supporting and strengthening your pelvic floor muscles is a lot easier than you might think! By committing to regular pelvic floor exercises, you can quickly be on your way to stronger pelvic muscles and better overall mental and physical health.
Pelvic Floor Exercises
The most well-known pelvic floor exercise is the Kegel exercise. This exercise focuses on tightening and holding the muscles that control urine flow. Kegels can be performed standing, sitting, or lying down. All you have to do is close your eyes, focus on the muscles that stop urine flow, tighten those muscles, hold for three to five seconds, and release. During the hold, you will feel like your muscles are lifting. Taking a few seconds between each hold, and repeat this exercise up to ten times in a session.
Another effective and easy pelvic floor exercise is the squeeze and release. To perform the squeeze and release, simply take a comfortable seated position, then squeeze and release the same muscles you worked while doing Kegels, but rapidly contracting and releasing this time. Squeeze and release as quickly as you can ten to twenty times a session. You can do this twice a day.
Squats and bridge pose lifts are two other pelvic floor exercises you can do at home. A professional pelvic physiotherapist might also suggest other specific exercises that are appropriate for your pelvic floor condition.
From the Roots Up
Managing a healthy weight, regularly engaging in moderate physical activity, eating a colorful assortment of real food (i.e., natural, preservative-free, from-the-earth,), drinking purified water (structured water is a bonus!), saying no to cigs, limiting or eliminating alcohol consumption, and managing stress are lifestyle practices that support a strong pelvic floor. Add in some pelvic floor-specific exercises and you are on your way to stronger roots.
When your root system is grounded, everything above it will be more supported. This is the way we need to look at health—everything is connected, and you can only be as strong as your foundation.
Disclaimer: The statements made in this article have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Any products or treatments mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please consult a licensed medical practitioner for medical advice.
At Innovative Medicine, we believe in transparency. We want you to know that we may participate in affiliate advertising programs pertaining to products mentioned herein.
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