In both men and women, pelvic floor strength and flexibility is essential for health. Yet it’s more common for women to be sensitive to the health of their pelvic floor muscles than men. For some, it’s difficult not to notice something is out of whack when stress, incontinence or unexpected leaks of urine, occur. This form of pelvic floor dysfunction affects nearly one-third of women over the age of 40.
But that’s not the only symptom of pelvic floor muscle dysfunction. Other symptoms include inability to use the bathroom, or the reverse of having to go too often. Women and men can also experience organ prolapse. These symptoms appear either due to over work of the muscles (heavy lifting and exercise), underutilization, recent and frequent childbearing, or growing older.
So what do you do to keep these muscles in shape? You may know about kegels. But kegels alone won’t do the trick. Proper strengthening—and stretching—is important to keep your pelvic floor muscles in top condition. Start with these five poses…
POSES FOR THE PELVIC FLOOR
1. Malasana (Stretch)
Stand with your feet just wider than hip-width distance (or as wide as needed to enter the pose comfortably) and your toes pointed out at an angle. Drop your hips down between your feet like you’re about to sit on the floor. Keep your knees flared open wide. Bring your hands to prayer position at the center of your chest while keep your head and chest lifted and spine straight. You should be in a squat position with your legs flared open. Press your triceps gently against your knees to create a more active stretch.
2. Supine Bound Angle (Stretch)
Lie flat on the floor on your back. Bring the soles of your feet together as your knees bend out wide to the side. If you have tight hips, place blocks underneath each knee. Gently flutter your knees up and down to activate the stretch and drop your knees closer the ground.
3. Bridge (Strengthen)
Lie flat on the floor with your knees bent up and your feet flat, hip-width distance. Keep your arms at your side. Your fingertips should just barely touch the back of your heels. Flatten your neck and spine along the floor. Use your glutes, legs and feet to lift your hips off the floor. Tighten your glutes and strengthen your lower abdomen and pelvic floor muscles to develop strength. Keep pressure off your neck by distributing weight into your shoulders, glutes and feet.
4. Legs up the Wall (Stretch and Rest)
Just as it sounds you’ll lie flat on the floor up against a while. Your legs will lean on the wall with your body at a 90 degree angle. The point in this posture is to allow for deep breathing and intentional relaxation of the pelvic floor muscles. As you breath in allow the oxygen to flow to your pelvic floor. With every breath out, relax the muscles.
5. Warrior II (Strengthen)
Stand with your feet about four feet apart. Turn towards your left. Point your left toes toward the top of your mat and leave your right toes at a 45-degree angle. Bend into your left knee. If your knee starts to go over your toes, then widen your stance. Lift your arms at to your side to reach in both directions. Gaze over your left hand. Tuck your tailbone under. Strengthen your bent knee thigh and glute as you tuck. And keep your straightened leg strong as a support for your upper body. As you strengthen your leg muscles, move up to your pelvic floor muscles, which should tighten inward as your begin to focus on strengthening your core from the lower pelvic area, up to the lower abdomen and your core abdominal muscles. Repeat on the other side.
STRENGTHEN AND STRETCH
Resting and stretching your pelvic floor muscles is just as important as strengthening them. If you’re an avid exerciser then the rest and stretch poses may be more suitable for you. But if you’re a mom of many, older in years or fairly inactive, you may need to strengthen your weak muscles. Either way an equal balance of stretching and strengthening is important to keep long and lean pelvic floor muscles that function perfectly.