A weak or super tight pelvic floor might be the reason behind your bladder leakage or sexual problems.
Although we might not want to talk about it, understanding what it is, where it’s located, and how to improve its vitality and strength is key to have better sex, increase bladder and bowel control, and diminish back pain.
This is an in-depth discussion on how to give your pelvic floor a facelift.
Plus, I have included effective exercises you can start doing today!
What is the pelvic floor?
The pelvic floor is a web of muscles, nerves, and ligaments located at the base of the pelvis, between the pubic bone, tailbone, and the ischial tuberosities — the bottom of your pelvis.
Think of it as a hammock.
It holds the reproductive organs, urinary system, and digestive tract.
Therefore, if this matrix doesn’t function properly, the effects can be catastrophic.
These are some symptoms that might indicate a pelvic floor dysfunction:
- Pain during intercourse — FYI, pain during sex is not normal.
- Painful, heavy periods
- Pain during a vaginal exam
- Not being able to fully empty your bladder
- Urinary incontinence
- Fecal incontinence
- Pain in the lower back and hips that can’t be explained by other causes
- Painful urination
- Bladder pain
- Lower abdominal pain
- Lower back pain
- A frequent need to urinate
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Constipation or incomplete bowel movements
- Interstitial cystitis — inflammation of the bladder
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
- Rectal spasming and pain
- Abdominal organ prolapse (a slipping forward or down of one of the parts or organs of the body)
Several factors can affect the pelvic floor.
Pregnancy, age, menopause, surgery, repeated heavy lifting, sexual abuse, obesity, and prolonged sitting can all cause a decline in the health of our pelvic hammock.
Therefore, it’s crucial to learn how to improve your pelvic floor with simple, yet actionable steps that can be accommodated even by the busiest schedules.
Pelvic Floor Dysfunction (PFD) is a very common condition.
Both men and women suffer from it, sometimes without realizing it. It’s estimated that about 1 in 4 women experience pelvic floor disorders, and that number doubles by the time women are over 80 years old.
For men, the most common symptoms are urinary incontinence, bladder pain, constipation, erectile dysfunction, and premature ejaculation.
How do I find the pelvic floor muscles?
One way to recognize the pelvic floor is to try to stop or slow urine flow and gas while going to the bathroom. If you can do this successfully at least a few times, you’ve found your pelvic floor.
This is how to feel it:
- Lie down with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
- Inhale and exhale gently.
- Draw in your lower abdominal muscles, and squeeze in the muscles around the urethra like you’re trying to stop gas or urine. Focus on lifting or squeezing the muscles around the vagina.
- Hold for 1–2 seconds, then let everything go. You should feel the pelvic floor muscles release and drop.
Once you’re able to feel the sensation of contraction in these muscles, check in with yourself.
How does it feel?
Lose? Or Tight?
Too tight or too lax?
Is your pelvic floor feeling loose? Or rigid and tense?
Issues with the pelvic floor can be originated by both hypotonic muscles — relaxing pelvic floor dysfunction — OR hypertonic muscles — nonrelaxing pelvic floor dysfunction.
Which means not everyone should do Kegels (repetitive contractions of the pelvic muscles).
For instance, if muscles feel contracted or hypertonic, doing Kegels might actually worsen the situation and make the pelvic floor even tighter.
Hence, consult with a pelvic floor physical therapist to identify the condition accurately.
What you can do — meanwhile
There are several ways in which we can support a healthy pelvic floor:
Maintain a healthy weight
One surprising benefit of losing weight is a healthy pelvic floor.
There are studies that show a correlation between obesity and urinary incontinence — a side effect of a weak pelvic floor. In fact, an increase of 5 units in body mass index can increase up to 70 percent the risk of urinary incontinence.
Furthermore, being overweight places more stress and pressure on the abdominal and pelvic area. The results could be a weakened pelvic floor or even the prolapse of an organ. This strain could make things like sneezing and episodes of incontinence more severe.
A Kapha dosha meal plan can help with that.
Follow an Ayurvedic diet
If you are experiencing any of the side effects of Pelvic Floor Dysfunction, that may be the sign you need to change your diet. There are foods that should be avoided since they can overstimulate and irritate the bladder.
Following an Ayurvedic meal plan is best. For example, avoid caffeinated beverages. Coffee is a diuretic, making the kidneys hypersensitive, which results in an overproduction of urine.
Carbonated drinks are also something to stay away from. Their bubbles increase the Vata in the body, which basically means you’ll end up with gas in your abdomen. That is bad news for your pelvic floor tissues, which will receive extra pressure.
In addition, avoid alcohol, spicy meals, and artificial foods.
What to consume, then?
Omega 3 fatty acids (salmon, flax seeds, avocados, and nuts) are super recommended. They help reduce inflammation and irritation in the bladder. Moreover, low-acidic fruits and vegetables like ripe apples and beans are good.
Eggs are a great addition too, as they contain vitamin D, which affects skeletal muscle strength and function.
If you decide to include eggs in your diet, check the Ayurvedic rules on how to eat eggs for better digestion.
Decrease abdominal pressure
Abstaining from some harmful practices can diminish unnecessary stress on our pelvic floor. For example:
- Don’t hold in your pee. It can damage the pelvic floor muscles and lead to urinary incontinence.
- If you are already suffering from PFD avoid heavy lifting, even if that means making more trips to the car to unload the groceries.
- Avoid heavily pushing this area. E.g., straining while pooping.
Do vaginal steaming
Yoni steaming has many benefits, including relaxing a hyper tense pelvic floor (hypertonic syndrome), particularly if done with the right herbs, like chamomile, lemongrass, and rose petals.
The following are healing Pelvic floor exercises.
We will categorize the movements as Hypertonic (a pelvic floor that is too tight) and Hypotonic (a pelvic floor that is too loose) in an effort to engage the appropriate muscles, in the right way.
- Sit or lie comfortably.
- Relax your shoulders, moving them away from your ears.
- Put a hand on your chest and a hand on your stomach.
- Gently breathe in completely through your nose, feeling with your hand how your stomach expands. Your chest should remain still.
- Now, purse your lips, like sipping through a straw. And exhale slowly through the lips until the stomach contracts completely.
- Repeat for 5-10 minutes.
Reclining angle bound pose
- Lie on your back.
- Bring the soles of your feet together and allow your knees to open up and move closer to the floor.
- Feel your pelvic floor relaxing as you breathe deeply.
- Hold for 15 seconds to 5 minutes.
Kneeling side bend stretch
- Kneel on the floor with your legs together, back straight, and core tight.
- Extend your left leg out to the side. Keep it perpendicular to your body (not in front or behind you).
- Extend your right arm overhead, rest your left arm on your left leg, and gently bend your torso and right arm to the left side.
- Keep your hips facing forward.
- Hold this stretch for 15 seconds to 3 minutes, focusing on relaxing your pelvic floor.
- Repeat on the other side.
- In a seated position, bring the soles of your feet together. Keep your spine tall and abs pulled in tight.
- Grab hold of each foot with your hands and place elbows against your inner thighs.
- Keeping your spine long, inhale to prepare, and as you exhale, slowly lower your torso forward, pausing when you feel the stretch. Hold for 15 seconds to 5 minutes.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
- Bend your knees and come down into a squat.
- Bring your upper body between your thighs and touch your palms together.
- Hold this pose for 5-10 deep breaths.
Happy baby pose
- Lie face up with both knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
- Lift your feet off the floor and grab the outside edges of your feet with your hands.
- Gently pull your feet toward your chest and let your knees lower toward the floor on either side of your body. Keep your back flat on the floor.
- Hold this pose for 15 seconds to 3 minutes.
- You can move from side to side.
- Lie faced up, arms extended by your sides, knees bent so that your feet are flat on the floor.
- Press through your heels to lift your hips up, and walk your feet in a few steps toward your body.
- Keep your feet and knees hip-width apart and your feet directly underneath your knees.
- Interlace your fingers underneath your body and press your fists into the mat.
- Hold for 5-10 breaths.
- Lie on the floor with your knees bent and pelvis in a neutral position.
- Draw your pelvic floor up, lock in your core, and slide your right heel away from you. Don’t lose your connection to the core.
- Find the bottom position, then bring your leg back to starting position.
- Repeat with the same leg for 10-20 slides before switching to the other side.
- Lie on the floor with your knees bent and pelvis in a neutral position.
- Draw your pelvic floor up and lock in your core.
- Slowly lift one leg up to a tabletop position.
- Then, gradually, lower this leg to the starting position.
- Repeat the movement, alternating legs.
- Keep your core engaged throughout the whole exercise.
- Alternate legs for 10-20 times.
- Lie on the floor with your legs in a 90-degree angle in the air, toes pointing at the ceiling.
- Slowly, release your legs out to each side as far as you can go that feels comfortable, and hold them stable with your core muscles.
- Slowly, pull your legs back to the center.
- Repeat for 10-15 times and 2-3 sets.