We typically don’t think about pelvic floor strength until we lose it. Pregnancy, childbirth, jobs that require long bouts of sitting, and aging, in general, can weaken the pelvic floor muscles. Menopausal changes also contribute to muscle atrophy and changes in the vaginal walls.
It’s essential to work on pelvic floor health no matter what stage you are in life. The reason for this is your pelvic floor is the functional base of your body. It acts as a sling of muscle along the torso that holds in all your pelvic organs. Maintaining healthy pelvic floor function is essential to your overall wellness. Let’s first go over how the pelvic floor works and then dig into some of the best practices you can work on every day to get strong and stay healthy.
Why Exercise The Pelvic Floor?
The pelvic floor is a system of muscles that act as a hammock to support your pelvic organs. The pelvic organs include:
- The bladder
- The uterus and vagina
- The rectum
Normal pelvic floor function allows the muscles to relax and contract in a coordinated way to control the bladder, bowels, and sexual function. When the pelvic floor is weak, tight, and not functioning well, many issues can arise. These issues may include urinary and fecal incontinence, the urgency to urinate, painful intercourse, and general pelvic and low back pain.
Fortunately, in many cases, resolving these issues is pretty straightforward. If you haven’t yet experienced what is known as pelvic floor dysfunction, it’s essential to work on daily healthy habits to keep these muscles primed and working well.
The Best Exercises for a Healthy Pelvic Floor
Though it’s easy to think performing Kegel exercises can strengthen your pelvic floor—there are a couple of things to work on first. Kegels are a more advanced form of pelvic exercise. Properly strengthening and aligning other parts of your body are an important step. So, here’s what we recommend working on before diving into Kegels.
Posture for Pelvic Floor Strength
Healthy posture is crucial for pelvic floor strength and health. Good posture is hard work (and burns far more calories). The key to posture correction is correcting the alignment of your hips.
Two important things that can affect hip alignment are:
- Clenching the glute muscles to push your pelvis forward
- Tilting the pelvis backward to open up the hip flexors
If you catch yourself clenching your glutes when you stand, it’s time to stop this bad habit. Muscles work best when they can contract and relax naturally. Squeezing your glutes for long periods can make them weaker.
On the contrary, arching your back slightly while you stand pushes your hips out of alignment. The best way to align your hips is to stack them under your ribs. Keep your diaphragm down, ribs down, and hips under your shoulder.
Breathing Properly for Pelvic Floor Strength
Another critical element in a strong pelvic floor is proper breathing. As we get older and stress takes hold, our breathing becomes shallow. We tend to breathe into the top of our chest and neck. But it’s vital for breath to fill your chest, belly, back, and pelvic floor.
As your diaphragm expands with each breath, its job is to push the pelvic floor down. Then when it moves back up, so does your pelvic floor. A great way to work on pelvic floor care at home is by sitting on an exercise ball. Focus on feeling your pelvic floor move into the ball and pull back away as your breath expands through your rib cage.
These unexpected exercises are the perfect way to work toward vaginal wellness and a stronger pelvic floor. We recommend doing quick posture checks throughout the day (try every 30 minutes). You can work on posture while seated and standing.
When it comes to breathing exercises, try taking five deep breaths every 60 minutes during your day. You can do these seated at your desk or sitting on an exercise ball. If you are in a chair with a back, focus on expanding your breath through the ribs. Your back should expand into the chair.