01/30/19 | share:
By Brianna Flaherty
We’ve never done an official survey, but I’ll go out on a limb and say that, excluding our most devoted blog readers (hey, hi, hello!), the majority of humans don’t know much about the pelvic floor.
It’s understandable — the pelvic floor is the definition of “out of sight, out of mind” and bringing more awareness to that area of the body feels taboo to many women. Plus, most of us wouldn’t even know where to start… which is exactly why we asked our friend and expert yogini, Lindsay Tyson, to show us the way. She designed an easy, 10-minute flow to promote pelvic floor health and bring some awareness and TLC to one of the most elusive and important areas of our bods.
If yoga isn’t your thing, there are many exercises (including but definitely not limited to Kegels) to strengthen your pelvic floor. That said, yoga is clinically proven to reduce pelvic pain (and improve cardiovascular health, stress levels, and flexibility). This sequence uses breath and movement to wake up, engage, and rebalance the muscles in your floor. Bonus: it’s pretty relaxing, too. All you need is yourself, some stretchy clothes, and a mat.
1. Constructive Rest
This pose is all about bringing your bod to a state of neutrality. Lie down with your feet wide on the mat, knees together, with your hands resting on your belly. Close your eyes to tune into your breath, and feel your stomach rise and fall. As you breathe in and out, engage your abs at the bottom of every exhale.
Every time you breathe—in this pose, but also just in life—your diaphragm is creating and releasing pressure in your torso, and engaging your pelvic floor. Feeling your breath is an easy way to do a pressure check on your floor (and remind yourself of all the work it’s doing throughout the day).
2. Knees to Chest
Draw your knees into your chest, holding onto your shins as you exhale, and engaging your abs. When you inhale, place your feet on the floor and reach your arms overhead. You should feel some stretching in your belly, sides, and the back of your body. On the exhale, curl up again and repeat this sequence, following your breath.
This pose is great for relieving lower back pain, which more and more studies link to pelvic floor dysfunction.
With your hands and knees on the mat directly underneath your shoulders and hips, inhale to Cat pose, tilting your pelvis forward and bending your spine. On the exhale, transition to Cow pose, dropping your tailbone first, and curving in your back. Lindsay says you should initiate each movement from the pelvis, letting your breath set the pace.
Cat-Cow brings awareness to specific areas of your pelvis that might be a little sticky, immobile, or painful.
4. Warrior II
This pose is like the ancestor of modern power posing. Standing at the top of your mat, step your left foot back about three feet and bend your front leg. Stretch your arms out to either side and look over the tips of your front fingers. Make sure your front knee tracks over your front foot, so you’re working your glutes for better pelvic floor support.
Once you’re in this shape, Lindsay says you can find a microscopic Cat-Cow pattern to activate and release your pelvic floor muscles.
5. Wide-Legged Forward Fold
Place your feet wide on the mat and slowly lower your upper body, keeping your back long and protected. In a Wide-Legged Forward Fold you’re opening up your hamstrings and groin, which relieves tension in the pelvic floor. If the fold feels a little too intense, you can bend your knees, or use a prop (blocks, bolsters, blankets, or a pillow are great options) under your head for extra support. Like the other poses, take time in this position to find your breath, and incorporate small Cat-Cow movements that will connect your awareness to your pelvic muscles.
6. Wide-Legged Squat
Stand with your feet mat-distance apart, and squat down. Press your elbows into your knees, heavy your tailbone, and lift your chest. Placing your hands in prayer on your sternum will help you connect to the rise-and-fall of your inhales and exhales. You should aim to have a long back here, so you can really open up your pelvic floor.
Malasana is a more challenging inner thigh and groin opener than Wide-Legged Forward Fold. If it’s uncomfortable, you can always place a prop under your seat.
7. Reclining Cross-Shin Position
This pose is all about resting and observing. Sit at the top of your mat with your legs crossed comfortably, then slowly lie back until you’re resting flat on your mat. Close your eyes, rest your arms at your sides, and give yourself a minute (or ten) to decompress and check in with your breath.
This should feel restful, so you can always place blankets or pillows under your thighs for support if anything feels tight. It’s a similar pose to the one that starts this flow, so be sure to take inventory of all the shifts that have happened in your body in just a few minutes.
What’s your favorite flow for your floor? Share in the comments!