Let’s talk about your... pelvic floor. You may hear me talk about lifting your pelvic floor in classes or in videos and wonder to yourself….what the heck is she talking about? Today I will fill you in on what you need to know about your pelvic floor and why it’s so important.
The pelvic floor is comprised of the muscles that form a figure eight from the pubic bone to the tailbone. Your pelvic floor supports and wraps around the underside of your bladder, uterus, and rectum. No matter how great of shape you are in, these muscles become weakened and stretched by pregnancy and a vaginal delivery. Some of the fun myriad of issues of a weak pelvic floor include low back pain, pelvic pain, prolapse (where your organs sag due to lack of support), incontinence, and bowel dysfunction.
I know, you may be thinking, “I had a Cesarean section so my pelvic floor is fine.” Well, let me just leave you with a little more info. You should still be concerned about the strength of your pelvic floor if you’ve had a C-section because the weight of baby, especially in the last few months, was held up by your pelvic floor. I’ve also heard from women who have had C-sections and then successful VBACs that they had more issues after their C-Sections due to the irritation of the nerves that connect to the pelvic floor.
So how can you safely exercise your pelvic floor muscles? Most moms know what a Kegel is from reading pregnancy books and/or attending childbirth classes… but here’s a refresher just in case your lack of sleep and mommy brain has erased all your previous knowledge. A Kegel is simply the contraction of the pelvic floor muscles, named after the guy, Dr. Kegel, who figured out that these exercises strengthen the pelvic floor in the early 1950s.
Usually women are taught to find these muscles by stopping the stream of urine while you are going to the bathroom. While this is a good way for you to find the muscles you should be using to perform Kegels, these muscles used to stop the flow of urine are not the only muscles you need to know about to properly perform Kegels.
There are actually ‘front’ and ‘back’ Kegels. When you find the muscles to stop your urine flow that is teaching you how to perform a ‘front’ Kegel. It is equally important to work on the muscles in the back of your pelvic floor as it is to work on the front muscles. Some women may have very strong front pelvic floor muscles and weak back muscles or vice versa.
To find the muscles necessary to perform a back Kegel imagine that you are in a room standing next to your celebrity crush and you suddenly feel like you are going to fart. I don’t want you to think to yourself, “that’s okay, it will be silent and my farts don’t smell.” Now... imagine you are about to have a loud man fart with a smell that could knock a skunk out. Okay, get the picture? That sound and stench need to stay inside you until you are able to make it to the middle of a deserted island hundreds of miles from civilization. Feel those muscles? Those are your back pelvic floor muscles.
Now that you have found the front and back pelvic floor muscles, let’s talk about how to properly perform a Kegel.
Start sitting on the floor with your legs “criss-cross applesauce” or seated on a firm chair with your feet flat on the floor. Make sure you are sitting up straight with your shoulders stacked over your hips. Take a minute and rock side to side to make sure you can feel your “sit bones” pressing into the floor or chair.
Take a deep breath in. As you exhale, squeeze your front and back pelvic floor muscles AND try to lift the area between your sit bones off the floor. You really want to focus on the lift in addition to the squeeze of both the front and back muscles. You should start to feel a burn in your inner abdominals as your pelvic floor muscles and transverse abdominals are connected.
So there you have it...the proper way to perform a Kegel. It may be easier, once you know which muscles to engage, to start practicing your Kegels lying down. Once you get the hang of it these are the perfect exercise to do while brushing your teeth, standing or sitting for a long period of time, or each time you are waiting for the light to turn green at a stoplight.
For a demonstration videos of exercises and more, head to the Babies at the Barre™ Youtube Channel.
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Written by Tori Levine, mom and founder of Babies at the Barre™, a unique mommy & me exercise class and mom group / community all in one! Meet other moms via in-person or online classes all while wearing your baby. Learn more about our low impact, effective mommy & me exercise classes here.
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