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All about the pelvic floor

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all about the pelvic floor

Isn’t it amazing. This little security hammock that we never really knew we had until we ventured naively into motherhood and then…HELLO pelvic floor!

Now we know we’ve got one. Every time we cough or sneeze, we know we’ve got one. And trampolines…ha, a thing of the past.

Who knew this seemingly insignificant set of muscles could be so important. I mean, they effectively hold up the world, well at least some important parts of it.

Well you know what, at the midway point of baby no 3, I’m NEVER taking my pelvic floor for granted again.

It’s not just us!

You know men have these too you right?!  And whilst they don’t push watermelons through theirs and put the same strain on it that we do, they can potentially put their pelvic floor under stress and end up with similar issues. The problem is they don’t have the same focus as we do. I’ve never heard of a man practicing kegel exercises for his beer belly…but I digress.

Despite the emphasis we place on pelvic floor in preparation for birth and post partum recovery, it’s still such an issue for so many and in many cases still a taboo topic of conversation.

It frustrated me the other day to hear the advice my friend received from her physio. She’s been suffering mild pelvic instability and has been seeing a physio for support, who told her that they don’t understand why people still think that yoga and pilates are safe to practice all the way through pregnancy, particularly during the last 4 weeks. This is a naive remark from someone who clearly knows little about yoga and pilates.

Yes, attending a general yoga and pilates class during pregnancy when you face complications can be fraught with danger. Even if you have an uncomplicated pregnancy it’s not recommended without the guidance of a qualified prenatal teacher. But attending a prenatal specific yoga or pilates class during all stages of pregnancy can be particularly supportive if you’re experiencing complications. Pelvic instability and weak pelvic floor are very adaptable conditions given the right guidance.

You and your pelvic floor

So, lets get down to the nitty gritty. What can yoga do to help strengthen your pelvic floor pre & post baby? As this is a massive topic, I’m going to address pelvic instability in another blog, even though they are closely related (so stay tuned!)

There are two main elements to the pelvic floor. Of course it’s important to strengthen your pelvic floor but it’s also just as important to be able to “relax” your pelvic floor. Pelvic floor strengthening is more to do with your postnatal recovery, but important to do pre-birth, however an over active pelvic floor (i.e., one that cannot let go) is the last thing you want heading into the birthing suite.

Also, regardless of whether you have a vaginal birth or not, pelvic floor exercises are important. Simply carrying a baby for 9 months puts a level of stress on the muscles of the pelvis.

There are a number of places you can find helpful information on how to exercise your pelvic floor effectively pre and post birth:

  • www.pelvicfloorfirst.org.au
  • www.thepregnancycentre.com.au

Yoga for your pelvic floor

View More: http://melissapaddisonphotography.pass.us/yogamamaIn a pre & postnatal yoga practice, we focus on engaging our pelvic floor on the exhale, relaxing the pelvic floor on the inhale. This mimics the action of the belly and the diaphragm, putting the least amount of stress on the pelvic floor.

Gentle ways to exercise pelvic floor include deep belly breath, following the pattern above. Also, a gentle bridge sequence or pelvic tilts lying on your back. Cat/Cow sequence is also a gentle way to explore movement of the spine and breath, once again engaging the pelvic floor gradually on the exhale as you round the spine.We’re not pelvic floor specialists and therefore encourage you to seek advice if you are suffering from any complications pre or post birth, however there are a number of yoga videos you can access via the YogaMamas YouTube channel that are gentle and safe to practice:


Bridge Sequence

Seated Breath & Movement

Salute to the Moon

Shoulder Release

Cat/Cow Sequence

Chair Sequence

 

If you have any pelvic floor issues, such as prolapse, then only practice the prenatal version as a precaution. Concentrate on engaging your pelvic floor on the exhale.

Avoid any poses that require strong abdominal work or place pressure on the pelvic floor. Any weight bearing poses through the upper body involve the abdominal muscles working intensely, so these are best avoided – arm balances, plank pose and many variations. Also avoid deep squats and wide legged forward folds.

If you’ve spent a lot of time standing, walking or in an upright position, then finish your day with Legs Up The Wall ~ the best way to give your pelvic floor a break!

If you have any questions, feel free to drop us a line mamas! {hello@yogamamas.com.au}

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