5 Tips To Gaining Control (Down There!) Before & After Baby
Written by: Jenna Zaffino
As a Pilates expert working with a vast population of women, I have found that regardless of age, fitness ability or level of body awareness, all women are intrigued by information about the topic of the pelvic floor (PF). Without an owner’s manual, influencing this important and empowering area of the body can feel confusing and elusive. Below are five easy ways to gain awareness and control over the PF that can be practiced before, during and after pregnancy.
*If you are experiencing pelvic pain, incontinence or have had a traumatic birthing experience, please check with your doctor before trying these exercises.
1. Breathe Deep and Often. Our bodies are designed to work like a large pump with the PF as the base. When we breathe in, air comes into the lungs, putting pressure on the visceral organs below, which in turn puts pressure on the PF, resulting in a relaxation or stretching of those muscles. During exhalation, as air leaves the lungs, the process is reversed and as a result the PF will lift naturally up into the body, creating a Kegal-like motion. While you can exaggerate either motion for more “work,” daily deep breathing will teach the PF muscles to be “at the ready” to push while you use the bathroom as well as during labor/delivery and pull up to support your spine and keep a sneeze from turning into an “accident!”
2. Let Go…….Of Your Belly. What??! A Pilates expert saying not to tighten the abs? Well yes. All muscles have a spectrum of movement from a complete stretch to a complete contraction. To learn how to contract the deep abdominal muscles, (which will fire in tandem with the PF) first release all work of the belly on an inhalation. As you exhale, follow the natural narrowing of your waist and see if you can pull the belly, sides and back in towards the center of your body. While practicing, imagine zipping up a pair of tight jeans (PF Muscles) while you also tighten your belt a notch (abdominal muscles) during an exhalation.
3. Stop The Flow – Just Once. Many women have heard that to check in with the strength of the PF muscles they should try to stop the flow of urine mid-stream. While this is a great way to check in, make sure you only try this once a stream. Multiple contractions during one stream can cause a “backflow” of urine towards your urethra, resulting in a UTI – ouch! Think back to the cave man days. If you were innocently relieving yourself by a tree and a hungry saber tooth tiger came along could you stop, stand up and run for safety?
4. Let Go……Of Your Butt. Your glute muscles are designed to move your legs behind you, help you balance, support your pelvis and look great in a pair of jeans. Your PF muscles are designed to take part in elimination, sex, breathing and natural childbirth. Often, women mistake a contraction of the “butt” as a contraction of the pelvic floor. Try lying down on your side and lifting the muscles of your PF, like you are zipping your jeans. Continue to check in and see if the “butt muscles” are relaxed during your lifting action. By practicing this, you will teach your body how to differentiate between the two and thus gain more awareness about how these muscles work for the above activities J.
5. Close Your Legs – To Work Your Inner Thighs. The inner thigh muscles are the windows to the strength of your PF. Lie on your back with your knees bent and place a small object (a ball or a pillow) between your legs, just above the knees. Can you squeeze the object to “turn on” the inner thighs? Can you do this action without engaging your “butt?” Can you feel your PF muscles “lifting” or “drawing in towards the front of your spine?” Party Trick: Always sit at the corner of the table at dinner, or close to one of the table legs. Scoot your chair in close and work your inner thighs against the leg of the table as you make your way through a long dinner J.
Helios Center For Movement offers pre-conception, pre-natal and post-natal training at our Roscoe Village Studio. For more information on any of the above sequences or to try a class or session, please contact Jenna Zaffino at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.heliospilateschicago.com.