The pelvic floor was designed not to be a muscle you train, but rather a muscle that moves fluidly in connection with the muscles in your lower limbs and trunk of your body. The combination of these muscles working together in a feminine flow is what results in a healthy pelvic floor. Contrary to popular belief, repetitively engaging in kegel exercises (exercises that train the pelvis to contract) is not a balanced approach for strengthening the pelvic bowl, unless you are using them for postpartum recovery or targeting a certain injury or imbalance. Don’t get me wrong, kegel exercises do have their place in women’s health. Kegels and other tightening exercises (like using a jade egg: See p. 198 of Happy, Healthy, Sexy) can be extremely beneficial to mother’s after giving birth or any woman working to retrain, retone, and re-tighten the vaginal walls. Outside of that, when we exclusively focus on contracting the pelvic floor we become vulnerable to many health imbalances including chronic stress, bloating, hormonal issues, and possibly pelvic floor disorder. When our pelvic floor muscles are too tight it can dull our sensitivity to arousal and sexual pleasure. For a flower to open, it must surrender it’s petals. It all comes back to balance.
Did you know that there is a direct line of fascia linking your jaw to your pelvis?
The connection and bio-mechanical relationship that your jaw and pelvis have is particularly helpful for women to understand. It's especially relevant for women with pelvic floor pain. A study in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics from Hanover Medical School in Germany revealed that TMJ (aka temporo-mandibular joint dysfunction) plays an important role in hip mobility restriction experienced by patients with pain. This indicated a connectedness between these two intrinsic parts of the body.
If you've been stuck in a pattern of clenching the pelvis it may be difficult to even know where to begin when it comes to relaxing those muscles. Going to the jawline can be a more accessible place to start and will seem to magically open the pelvic bowl. Ina May Gaskin, a female healer and wise leader in midwifery, even coined the term “the sphincter law” to explain that if the jaw and throat are relaxed then the buttocks and pelvis will be too. She says, “The state of relaxation of the mouth and jaw is directly correlated to the ability of the cervix, the vagina, and the anus to open to full capacity.” (Gaskin, 2003, p. 170) On the flip side, if you are clenching your jaw often, you’re probably also clenching your pelvis.
How do I know if my pelvis is contracted?
If you exercise frequently, do yoga, stress easily, or wear heels above 1/8th of an inch, your pelvis is probably contracted. In the modern day yoga and fitness world many women are cued to “contract the navel, lift your belly in and up, draw your navel in and pull your tailbone down,” and while these cues may have there place for certain exercises, if you aren’t spending adequate time intentionally doing the opposite and relaxing you are cuing your body to stay in a hyperarousal state. When we wear heels it causes an anterior pelvic tilt.
These incredible bodies we live in were made to keep each body part in balance with the other. If one body part becomes fixed, the whole system has to compensate. This can lead to a chain reaction of imbalance causing our abdominal organs to be squashed and our belly to bloat.
Many of us have lost our sensitivity to even feel this hyper-flexed state because we've become somewhat disconnected from our bodies. By engaging in more fluid, less structured movement, and through time spent softening, surrendering, and relaxing the pelvic floor those muscles will actually become stronger! Just like the rest of the body, when you overtax a certain muscle, you need adequate rest and recovery time in order for that muscle to actually grow and remain healthy.
How can we maintain an overall healthy pelvic floor?
Diversify your movements! Don’t just focus on one exercise. Doing kegels is similar to doing a bicep curl for your pelvis. You’re only going to strengthen one muscle. Try engaging in a wide range of fluid motions. Movements involving squatting, lunging, and lengthening of the limbs will help tone the pelvis while also help to strengthen the extremities which will create ease on the pelvis while also gaining strength and longevity.
Exercises to tone, relax, & strengthen the pelvis:
- Breathing practices with elongated exhales
- Long walks in shoes without heels
- Take pause throughout the day to relax the jaw
- Lay down with some massage balls!
- Get or give yourself a face massage
- Chakravakasana (cat cow) with lion’s breath to loosen the hips and the jaw
- Anytime you are doing tightening or strengthening exercises make sure to take adequate recovery time and focus on relaxing the jaw & the pelvic bowl
- Our Foam roller and pelvic release classes in the Shakti School Membership Community:
How will having a more relaxed & toned pelvis lead to experiencing more pleasure?
When the pelvic floor muscles are chronically tensed the muscles will eventually become less flexible. When the muscles are unable to move and stretch, sensations will become weakened and the ability to engage with that area emotionally will also become more difficult.
In Happy Healthy Sexy: Ayurveda Wisdom for Modern Women, I wrote: “Pleasure-power has everything to do with cultivating our ability to feel and experience pleasure in daily life-- in and out of the bedroom. It’s about getting quiet and content enough to experience the immense beauty that is always present when our senses are tuned in.” Similarly, when we educate ourselves on the pelvic floor it is essential for us to focus on being in continuous engagement with our bodies. The key element to building strength, fluidity, and our ability to experience pleasure is to return to movements that are less rigid, more balanced, and more fluid. It is there where we will find more ease with the body, mind, and spirit.
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Foods that are good for your connective tissue: