Pelvic floor health doesn’t just affect body posture, gait, and freedom of movement. A strong pelvic floor gives every woman the confidence to throw her head back when she laughs, to run, jump and sneeze without fear of leaking, and to return to intimacy after childbirth or menopause with enhanced sexual feeling.
Jenni Russell, a specialist in pelvic floor health, shares five ways to take care of your pelvic floor and overall well-being:
Breathing provides every organ and muscle in the body, including the pelvic floor, with the blood, oxygen, and nutrients that they need to work effectively. Improve your diaphragmatic breathing and include a 10-minute routine into each day to keep these muscles healthy and responsive.
Stand in front of a mirror and watch your body. As you inhale through the nose, the tummy and lungs should expand as they fill and then the chest rises slightly. Think 2/3rd tummy, 1/3rd chest. The breath should sound earthy and deep, and you should aim to inhale for between 4-6 seconds. Exhale and empty the lungs from the chest down.
Include exercises that strengthen the transverse abdominis and multifidus. These two sets of muscles share the same neural pathway as the pelvic floor. All three should contract together as one is activated, creating a natural girdle within us that protects the spine and the pelvic floor from adverse load. There is no joy in suffering from lower back pain, involuntary loss of urine, or dragging sensations from prolapsed organs. Working these muscles not only protects your pelvic floor from weakness but also improves posture, contour, gait, and range of movement
On all fours, keep your arms directly under your shoulders, knees under hips and head parallel to the floor. Relax the shoulders away from the ears and turn the elbows in towards the thighs. Tip the pelvis under a tiny fraction until you feel a little tension across the base of the abdominals. Inhale and allow the tummy to expand. Hold your breath and use one hand to gently guide your belly button slightly up and in. Place the hand back on the floor and then with pursed lips, as if blowing a trumpet, exhale.
Keep your bowel habits regular and consistent. A healthy gut is pivotal to overall well-being, playing host to 100 trillion bacteria that directly support our detoxification pathways, as well as the digestive, immune and nervous systems. Adequate fibre and water are essential to ensuring a healthy bowel movement once or twice daily. Aim for at least four servings of green leafy vegetables a day, plus one to two servings of fruit.
Walking. It’s not only a good way to encourage your digestion, but it also stimulates the parasympathetic (“relaxation”) system – the nervous system pathway that aids rest, digestion and repair. Our lives today are full of minor environmental stressors, including smartphones, TVs, computers, long hours at work, family responsibilities and even gyms. Add a 20-30 minute walk to your evening routine, and try to go screen free for an hour before bed to help stimulate the parasympathetic pathway and encourage sleep. Speaking of which...
Sleep – for many of us, it is the missing ingredient to recover from sickness, disease, and injury. Our bodies do their most effective physical and psychogenic repair during sleep. It is well known that seven to eight hours sleep is optimal for most people. This time is used to help the body heal, replenish the immune system, regenerate neural pathways in the brain, as well as repair muscles and connective tissue (crucial for pelvic floor stability and protection).