To Kegel or Not to Kegel
By Diane Rizzardo, Pelvic PT
You might have heard that doing kegels will strengthen your pelvic floor and help you from incontinent episodes. But did you know that we don’t always recommend kegel exercises to everyone? There are certain times when we want to learn to actually relax the pelvic floor and let the muscles lengthen.
Imagine your pelvic floor is instead, your jaw. If you hold your jaw clenched all the time, you’re likely going to end up with jaw pain, maybe a headache and possibly a toothache! Instead your jaw should be relaxed at rest with enough muscle activation to keep your mouth closed but without your jaw being clenched. Then when you go to speak, your mouth can move freely and with ease.
The same goes for the pelvic floor muscles–they need to be able to relax and contract!
Here are some of the times we want to work on relaxing the pelvic floor muscles:
Dyspareunia: The pelvic floor muscles can be in protection mode and we need to learn how to relax those muscles
Third Trimester of Pregnancy: Prior to giving birth, you need to learn to relax and lengthen the pelvic floor muscles. This is because it’s actually the uterus that does the pushing to help get the baby out and your pelvic floor muscles need to open and allow the baby to pass through
- Birth Trauma: If you consciously or subconsciously experienced any birth trauma (psychological, tearing, experiential etc.), your body can be holding the pelvic floor muscles tight as a protective mechanism. We need to teach them it’s safe and okay to relax
You might be wondering how on earth you learn to relax the pelvic floor muscles. Here is how you do it:
1. Breathing Exercises + Visualization
- Working on some deep breathing, ideally for 10 minutes
- Position yourself either lying on your back, side or even sitting up can be done with one hand on your chest and the other on your belly
- Try to breathe into your hand on your belly with every inhale
As this gets easier, imagine some of these cues:
- Your sit bones spreading apart
- Your pubic bone and tailbone spreading away from each other
- Your vagina blossoming like a flower or opening like a clam
- Dropping an egg you’ve been holding in your vagina
2. Deep Squat
- As long as your knees are okay with it, try going into a deep squat
- See if you can hang out here for 1 minute
- When you are there, try using the visualizations suggested above
- You can also sit back into your deep squat while holding onto a secure door handle to make it easier to get back up
3. Happy Baby
- Lying on your back, bring your feet out wide and to your hands
- Let your knees rest wide and your hands support your feet
- Think of the tailbone opening like a drawbridge and dropping down to the ground
- Spend 1 minute here
If this is something you found helpful, you might want to check out a free virtual event coming up March 5th and 6th!
The Path to Parenthood Summit is for expecting or new parents to kids under age 2, offering an innovative way for overwhelmed new and expecting parents to connect with trusted, non-judgmental experts with panel discussions and moderated sessions.
Features and benefits of the conference include:
- Panel discussions on a variety of relevant topics such as birthing options, recovery, feeding, body image, mental health and sex after baby
- Breakout sessions with experts like sleep consultants, financial advisors, and mom-preneurs
- Connect with other parents who are on the path to parenthood
- Join from the comfort of your own home
- Tickets are free
For more information and to register, click here!
Elevate Pilates & Physio was founded by Registered Physiotherapist Diane Rizzardo in Vancouver, British Columbia. Elevate offers pelvic floor, pilates, and sport physiotherapy services and educational/fitness programs to support people through their fertility, pregnancy, birth and postpartum experiences.