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How many times have you been in an exercise class when the instructor has cued to ‘Now, engage your Pelvic Floor’ and you have thought ‘What the hell?' and 'Where the hell is that?’ It took me years to truly understand the complexities of the Pelvic Floor and how to activate and release this group of muscles.

So, why are the Pelvic Floor muscles so important?

The Pelvic Floor is a layer of muscles which span the bottom of the pelvis supporting all the pelvic organs. Both men and women have Pelvic Floor muscles, for men the Pelvic Floor muscles support the bladder and bowel and in women the bladder, bowel and uterus. The Pelvic Floor muscles extend to both sides of the pelvis, sitting bone to sitting bone and front to back, Pubic bone to coccyx.

Like all muscles in the body to be healthy they need to be not only  strong but supple also. We should be able to not only effectively engage a muscle but also to be able to release them. 

Healthy Pelvic Floor muscles are both strong and supple and can engage and release enabling us to control our bladder and stabalize and support our pelvis. During Pregnancy, with the additional weight baring down on the Pelvic Floor. And the stretching of the muscles as the baby descends down the birthing canal, can lead to weakened Pelvic Floor muscles. Which can cause incontinence postpartum as well as Pelvic Floor prolapse (when the pelvic organs start to drop down towards the Vagina.) 

But how do we engage the Pelvic Floor muscles?

To engage the Pelvic Floor first we have to be able to connect to our breath. Not the shallow, upper chest breathing we have overtime developed due to stress, poor posture, desk jobs and lack of activity but the deep diaphragmatic breathing that reaches the lowest lobes of our lungs that we were born knowing how to do. The breath is going to be essential in being able to effectively engage the Pelvic Floor. The mistake a lot of people make when trying to engage their Pelvic Floor is to squeeze and tighten the Glutes as well and in fact we want to keep the buttock muscles soft and relaxed so you are isolating the muscles of the Pelvic Floor. We do need strong Gluteal muscles for the stabilization of the pelvis and the function of the Pelvic Floor but we want to avoid clenching the buttock muscles when performing these Pelvic Floor exercises. 

Because the Pelvic Floor muscles are deep as opposed to superficial muscles.  We need to have a strong sense of body awareness to be able to control their engagement and release. In classes often the Pelvic Floor engagement cues will be imbedded with lots of other cues. So as you try to coordinate the movement of your arms and legs it is easy to lose that mindful connection to the Pelvic Floor. Visualization is a great tool to use when working with the Pelvic Floor. I like to visualize my Pelvic Floor as a square piece of fabric at the base of the Pelvis and to engage the muscles you want to think ‘up and in’ Like you are pinching the center of that square piece of fabric up towards your chest. As you pinch the fabric the sides will draw inwards and this is exactly what happens to the Pelvic Floor muscles when you engage. The muscles draw your Sits bones narrow and your pubic bone and coccyx towards one another. 

Coordinating your breath with the movement is key. When we inhale, the lungs expand and the diaphragm descends down which pushes the abdominal organs down and stretches out the Pelvic Floor. As we exhale, the diaphragm contracts and the Pelvic Floor and the abdominal organs lift up. If you have a healthy Pelvic Floor which is both strong and supple then it will easily expand and contract with your breath.  

These are some of my favorite exercises to practice the engagement and release of the Pelvic Floor muscles. I highly recommend incorporating these exercises into your at home or studio workout routines. Dedicate as little as 10 mins a few times a week to these Pelvic Floor exercises and you will start to see a noticeable difference in the strength or your core and pelvic stability. 

* Before moving in any of these exercises practice the breath sequence of inhale, exhale and engage your Pelvic Floor. 

1. PAPER SLIDES - From an all 4's position lift opposite hand and knee slightly off the floor, like you are sliding a piece of paper underneath them. As you lift you are trying to maintain a stable neutral spine, pelvis and shoulders. 

2. PELVIC TILTS - From an all 4's position without moving your shoulders tilt your hips towards your shoulders and then return back to neutral. 

4. BIRD DOG - From an all 4's position, maintain a neutral spine as you extend one leg back and opposite arm forward. Inhale on the reach and exhale as you draw the knee and elbow towards the bodies midline. 

5. DEAD BUG - Lying in a supine position bring both legs to table top (knees over hips) and extend your arms to the ceiling. Inhale, exhale and engage your pelvic floor then extend opposite arm and leg away from the bodies midline maintain a stable spine. 

6. WIDE TURNED OUT PLIES - Step your feet out wider than your hips and turn your legs out from your hips. Take a deep knee bend, dropping your pelvis towards the floor. Making sure you maintain a plumb position of ears, shoulders and hips all stacked. Then slowly stretch out your legs and try hugging the inner thighs towards one another as you lengthen.

{Perform 8-10 reps of each exercise}

As always thanks for reading and please leave your comments in the space below. I love to hear from you!