The pelvic floor is a layer of muscles located at the base of the body, attached to the pubis and the coccyx. It creates a sort of hammock of muscles which is holding your womb, bladder, and intestines in the right place.
It presents three openings in it: the urethra, through which you urinate; your anus, through which you defecate, and your vagina, through which you will be birthing your baby. They are controlled by sphincters, also called ring muscles.
The pelvic floor is not only supporting the contents of the pelvis, but is also linked to the postural muscles that support the spine. A lot of people can find it a little difficult to feel the pelvic floor, as it is inside the body and not directly visible.
You can do this little exercise if you want to feel yours.
Start by placing one hand between your legs and make a fist with the other in front of your mouth. Put your awareness to the area between your legs and cough strongly into your fist. You may feel something bulging out a little here – this is your pelvic floor.
The pelvic floor is extremely important because those muscles are what keep all your insides where they should be… inside you! It’s also playing an important role in the support and alignment of your spine.
During pregnancy this hammock of muscles are also supporting the downward pressure of the weight of the baby. If your pelvic floor muscle tone is good, then these functions work well.
If your pelvic floor muscles are weak or damaged, then you may experience some problems during pregnancy, birth, the immediate postnatal period, or in later life (e.g. stress incontinence).
Why are pelvic floor exercises important during pregnancy and birth?
Yoga can be a very useful tool to work on your pelvic floor muscle tone. In yoga the pelvic floor is recognized as the root of the body, and is seen as the place from which we generate a grounding, nurturing energy that is especially valuable during pregnancy.
Special yoga practices designed to enhance your awareness of the muscles of the pelvic floor can both develop these muscles’ tone, and also train your ability to relax these muscles at the time of birthing your baby. It is equally important to learn how to release these muscles as it is to learn how to tighten them.
So if you want to use yoga to improve the quality of your pelvic floor awareness, you can do the practices described in this article.
These practices are synchronized with the movement of the breath, and by doing so the muscles supporting your spine are also strengthened, and this helps maintain good posture through all the changes of your pregnancy.
Four pelvic floor exercises before pregnancy
Easy Pose -Sukhasana
Sit in any comfortable position that allows you to keep your back upright. This exercise will help you to locate your pelvic floor. Start by engaging your anus, contracting it without engaging anything else. Then move on to your urethra, trying to contract it without engaging anything else.
To do so, the action is the same as when you’re peeing and trying to stop the flow midstream. Then put your focus on the part between your anus and your urethra. Try to lift up this part without engaging the rest. In yoga we call this mula bandha.
Take your time exploring the sensations, and if you don’t feel much, don’t worry, it will come with practice.
This is a silly little exercise to start working on your pelvic floor with the synchronization of the breath. Start at the back of your mat, feet hips-width apart and slightly open. Take a step forward, extend your legs and engage your pelvic floor, lifting everything up inside. On the exhale, bend your knees a little and relax everything.
Take a second step forward on your inhale, engaging the pelvic floor, and repeat this exercise as you walk all the way to the top of your mat and back to where you started.
Garland Pose Malasana
Place your feet hips-width apart, the toes turning outward and come down to a deep squat position, maybe placing a block below your butt for more comfort. Place your hands in prayer at your heart center and open the chest by pushing your elbows into your shins.
On every inhale, lift up your pelvic floor, on every exhale, let everything relax. Do 10 to 20 rounds of breathing.
Bridge Pose - Setu Bandhasana
Lie down with your back on the floor and your feet close to your hips, knees pointing towards the ceiling. On every inhalation, lift up your hips and press them away from the floor as much as you can while engaging your pelvic floor muscles.
On every exhalation, bring the hips back down and relax everything. Do 10 to 20 rounds of this movement, synchronizing your breathing and the motion.
Featured Video: Easy Pelvic Floor Exercises For Pregnancy
I can’t stress enough how much those pelvic floor muscles exercises are important for everybody and even more during pregnancy.
You can practice them during your yoga session but you can also practice them anywhere, anytime as it is an invisible yoga exercise.
When you’re driving, working, waiting in line, cooking, brushing your teeth… Just maintain the synchronization with the breath, lifting everything up on the inhale and relaxing on the exhale. It is better to practice this exercise a little bit at a time but often rather than a big session once a week.
You want ideally to make it become a part of your routine so that you will be doing them without even thinking about it!