How do we heal our pelvic floors?
Pilates is a form of exercise that has traditionally been viewed as very effective for pelvic floor health. When taught competently and executed well, these exercises coordinate movement with breathing, which works the all-important deep core muscles.
These deep-core muscles include the pelvic floor. Our pelvic floor supports the bladder, uterus, and rectum.
If you think of our core as a cylinder with a top, bottom, front and back, the pelvic floor is at the bottom and the diaphragm, our life-giving breathing muscle, is the top of this container.
It is really useful to know that functionally, the pelvic floor opposes the diaphragm. The diaphragm moves up and down as we breathe, alternating between putting pressure and reducing pressure to the abdominal cavity.
When the diaphragm stretches as we exhale, the pressure in our belly cavity lessens and the pelvic floor can contract a bit more;
When the diapragm contracts when we inhale, putting pressure on the organs below, the pelvic floor has to stretch to accommodate this pressure.
This cylinder, and this interaction, contains the pressure which builds and changes in our body through breathing. In, out, many thousands times per day. As we breathe, the muscles naturally tense and let go without us realising. This beneficial tension is needed to give stabilising tension to our lower back and pelvis, the centre of our grativy. When we work out, or lift weights, these muscles have to work a little bit harder to support the extra demands so that we are nicely supported from deep within.
If this mechanism is not functioning well, there is trouble in store. And the final guardian of this pressure is the pelvic floor. Eventually, it suffers and has some sort of dysfunction as it struggles to support the failing mechanism of pressure.
Rebalancing this mechanism back to its original beautiful order is so very important! And Pilates can certainly help - as Pilates combines movemenent with good breathing principles.
The interesting thing here is that it is not about working hard during your Pilates session - but about working smart.
As a Pilates teacher, I definitely find that trying too hard, squeezing the muscles too much, is counter-productive. The deep activation we are looking for might not be achieved.
My clients do best when they integrate their movements with awareness of how breathing truly works to help their body stability switch on at a deep level. Gripping, squeezing and “bracing” (think, like you are protecting our belly from a direct punch) works the superficial muscles.
Getting to know the deep activation of stability muscles is a finer art - but that pays huge dividends.
How do we do that with breath? By blowing up a balloon slowly with a controlled exhale, or pretending we are slowly blowing at a cake with lots of candles on it. Done without rushing and purposeful squeezing, it creates just the right sort of deep tension that helps our spine and pelvis stay stable.
However, often we find that we have already got so much deep-seated patterns that get in the way of our Pilates routine that it takes a very, very long time to undo, unlearn, and re-learn.
And that is when we need some extra magic to help us. This magic comes with adding Hypopressives to the regular workouts, and by including the rehabilitative exercises I teach which rebalance muscles back to their optimal length and strength.
More on that next month in this blog.
I cover this, and so much more, in my “Introduction to Hypopressives for Pelvic floor health” held in Colehill, Wimborne, on 24 April at 12:45pm. It is a 2 hour workshop where you get to learn tons of fascinating stuff and practice a few Hypopressives exercises to help decrease intra-abdominal pressure. Book via
To your health,