Breathing for a Healthier Pelvic Floor
By guest writer Tracy Mattox
Let’s talk about your pelvic floor, the muscles that support the organs below your belly button. When these muscles are weak, you might experience pain or have problems with your bladder or bowels. If you pee a little bit when you laugh or cough, you have a weak pelvic floor. There are surgeries to correct some of these issues, but there are also a lot of great exercises that can help. Physical therapists and yoga instructors with the right knowledge are great resources for those who are looking to strengthen “down there.”
Before doing any exercises, it’s important to take a look at the quality of your breathing. I invite you to do a quick experiment. Stand up, place your hands on your belly and take a deep breath. What do you notice when you inhale? Does your belly drop down or pull in? MANY people are “reverse breathers,” meaning they pull in their stomachs on the inhale. This is one of the worst things you can do to your pelvic floor. It’s not a conscious movement, but something people unknowingly train themselves to do.
The pelvic floor is a diaphragm and needs to experience its full range of motion to stay healthy. When you inhale the muscles should naturally drop downward. On the exhale they should rise up and form a small dome shape. If you’re interested in breathing for a healthier pelvic floor, I invite you to repeat the experiment in the last paragraph, but follow a technique taught in yoga for the pelvic floor. This time, focus on three points with every inhale: 1) allow the chest to rise up, 2) allow the rib cage to expand, and 3) allow the breath to naturally press the belly outward, which also moves the pelvic floor. Nothing should feel forced, and the reverse should happen on the exhale (belly comes in, ribs contract, and the chest lowers).
If you want to practice this in a yoga posture, I invite you to come into Bridge Pose. You can either stay in the upright position or rest your sacrum (the triangle bone between your butt cheeks, not the spine) on a yoga block. In this pose, proper breathing is really accentuated by the movement of the belly up into the sky on the inhale.
There are a lot of yoga postures that can help with your pelvic floor health, but you really need to learn to breathe correctly to gain the full benefits in your practice.
Tracy Mattox is a full-time chemist with a passion for writing children’s books, coaching middle school sports, and has loved yoga since high school. She developed pelvic organ prolapse after delivering baby #2 and after a decade of frustration reclaimed her active life by turning to yoga. Tracy is now a certified instructor who teaches online yoga for the pelvic floor. Check out the website for access to videos and live weekend classes. https://www.yogabelowthebelt.com