By Araxe Hajian
Miraval Resorts Body Mindfulness Series
Welcome to the third part of our Pelvic Floor segment with Miraval Arizona Specialist Lyndi Rivers, which explains how to balance conventional strengthening techniques with lengthening exercises that help your pelvic floor relax and contract to maintain optimal functionality. Click here for Part One and Part Two.
Balancing Strength & Length
One of the biggest misconceptions about the pelvic floor is that it just needs to be strong. But it also needs to be supple. Meaning it needs to both fully relax and fully contract. You can’t contract it properly if you can’t begin from a relaxed position.
Any bodybuilder will tell you that stretching is important. So why is it so hard for us to apply the same care we give our other muscles to our pelvic floor?
Because we have been taught to do just one end of the equation: squeezing and contracting (or modern-day Kegels). Focusing only on the strength piece is a losing battle because there is no strength without flexibility. And you can’t become more flexible without awareness.
This takes us back to the idea of conscious understanding and visualization of our pelvic floor.
For example, when you break your arm and it’s in a cast, it stays in a contracted position for a long time.
When you take the cast off, the first thing you want to practice is getting that arm long again. Those biceps muscles have been in a contracted position and need to lengthen.
When we do Kegels, we are just contracting without lengthening. If you only squeezed in one direction to get your biceps strong again, it would keep shortening your muscle fibers and would never elongate the muscle. It would leave you with a poorly functioning and pretty funky-looking arm. Imagine what it does to your pelvic diamond.
MYTH: If I have a weak pelvic floor, then it must be too loose, so I need to tighten my pelvic floor.
FACT: Pelvic floor dysfunction can stem from a pelvic floor that is overly tight or overly loose. Both are signs of having a weak pelvic floor.
Diamonds Are Forever
“We want our pelvic floor to work for us for the rest of our lives,” says Lyndi. “We don’t have to accept that pain during sex, prolapse, or incontinence are our lot in life just because we are a certain age.”
Let’s shrug off the shroud of shame covering us below the waist and shine a light on that beautiful expanding diamond inside.
There are easy ways we can fortify our pelvic floor. A simple and effective way to begin is with a modified version of sunbird or bird dog.
Try it out with Lyndi’s instructions here:
Before any strengthening exercise, please remember to bring in awareness, breath, and lengthening first.
- Begin by breathing in child’s pose.
- Get into table-top position.
- Extend your right leg behind you, with your toe tucked on the floor and your left arm in front of you with fingertips on the floor. Make sure your pelvis is neutral (we tend to hike up the right pelvis when that leg is extended).
- On an exhale, lift the leg and the arm while maintaining a neutral pelvis. Your arm will go to shoulder height and your leg to hip height.
- On an inhale, lower toes and fingertips back to the floor.
- Repeat 10 times with control.
- Switch sides and repeat steps 1-6.
For more information on finding a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist in your area, you can conduct a google search or try www.womanshealthapta.org or www.pelvicrehab.com.
Book your next visit to Miraval Arizona, and experience Lyndi’s new offering, Pelvic Floor Wisdom.
Check back with us in the upcoming weeks for more take-home exercises, links, and deeper dives into body mindfulness topics.
Araxe Hajian is a senior writer who covers wellness stories and specialist offerings at Miraval Resorts & Spas.
Source material from Lyndi Rivers, Integrated Health Specialist at Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa.