As a yoga teacher, I pride myself on having a strong pelvic floor. So I was super surprised when, after my hip labrum surgery, sex became painful. At first, I figured it was just because I was overly cautious of my hip. However, the pain didn’t subside and it became difficult and painful to urinate.
You may know this feeling – You sit on the toilet, you have to go, but it takes a few seconds until you start.
I knew the importance of having a strong pelvic floor, but I never once thought about having a TIGHT pelvic floor.
Tighter does not equal stronger. It’s just tighter.
Basically, there are three types of pelvic floor dysfunction:
- Hypertonic – a TIGHT pelvic floor
- Hypotonic – a LOOSE pelvic floor
- Hypertonic AND hypotonic – One part of your pelvic floor may be too tight, while another part is too loose.
- Most painful symptoms
- Pain during sex
- Pain during urination
- Urge incontinence (difficulty urinating)
- Difficulty initiating urination
- Pelvic pain
- Decreased libido due to pelvic floor tightness
- Vaginal Pain
- Difficulty with conception *this is a new finding and needs further research
- Stress urinary incontinence (involuntary leakage)
- Pelvic organ prolapse
- Decreased libido due to weak pelvic floor muscles
- Difficulty achieving orgasm due to weak pelvic floor muscles
- Childbirth can often lead to weak pelvic floor muscles, but not always! You can reverse this and strengthen your pelvic floor!
Surprisingly, a lot of yoga teachers and pilates teachers suffer from pelvic floor pain. We constantly tell our students to engage their mulabandha or pelvic floor but we don’t stress the importance of releasing it. Over time, we engage it so much that it becomes too tight.
If you suffer from any of the above issues, then it’s important to stretch and release the pelvic floor.
Below are four yoga poses and exercises that will help release a tight pelvic floor. If you suffer from any painful symptoms then start with this routine to end the pain.
If you suffer from hypertonic and hypotonic symptoms, start with the routine below.
If you suffer from a hypotonic, or weak, pelvic floor, then next week’s blog will give you four exercises and yoga poses to strengthen the pelvic floor.
I suggest practicing these exercises daily for at least 1-4 months until your pain subsides.
If you’re suffering from severe pain, consult with a physical therapist that specializes in pelvic pain. She can perform massage and prescribe you specific exercises.
Pelvic Floor Drops
It’s important that we teach our bodies how to RELAX. This exercise is more of a mental exercise than a physical one. It sounds a little odd, but you already know how to do this.
- From a seated, standing or lying position, take 5 deep breaths and relax your body as much as possible. Close your eyes.
- When you feel relaxed, take a deep breath in for 5 seconds.
- On your exhale, visualize your breath descending down into your pelvis. Let go of your pelvic floor and feel it drop in the same way that it drops when you urinate. Don’t push or strain, allow it to gently relax. Repeat for 5 rounds and complete frequently throughout the day.
This is harder than it seems for many us. We are so chronically tight in the pelvic floor that it’s difficult to relax. (If you suffer from a weak or loose pelvic floor, check out next week’s blog to strengthen your pelvic floor!)
This gentle isometric exercise will help relax your pelvic floor muscles and calm bladder issues. Bonus: it also helps with lower back pain, a common complaint of those suffering from hypertonic pelvic floors.
- Lie down on your back and bring your legs into a tabletop position. Knees stack over hips and lower legs are parallel to the floor.
- Place your hands on top of your thighs. Very GENTLY press your fingertips into the thighs and let your thighs resist the pressure.
- Hold for 6 seconds. Relax. Drop the pelvic floor and repeat for 5 more repetitions.
Garland pose is a great way to stretch the pelvic floor and align the pelvis. Often, when we have a hypertonic pelvic floor, the sacrum pulls in and we lose the natural curve in the lower back. This pose helps align the pelvis.
This is also a great way to strengthen the hips and glutes, often weak in people with hypertonic pelvic floors. There’s a few different ways to do this stretch.
- Stand with your feet a little wider than hip width. Slightly turn your toes out.
- Keeping your back straight, squat down until your butt is just a few inches off the floor.
- Let your arms rest on the inside of your thighs and GENTLY push your elbows and knees into each other. Let your pelvic floor drop.
- Keep your chest up and your knees opening to the sides. Knees are right over your ankles.
- Hold for 30-60 seconds and repeat 3 times.
- If your ankles are tight, roll up a yoga mat or find a small board and place your heels on it.
- If your back or hips are too tight for the standing version, lie down on your back.
- Bring your knees to your chest then let them rotate out to the side. Use your hands to hold your knees here.
- Drop your pelvic floor and hold for 30-60 seconds. Repeat 3 times.
Tight hip muscles put stress on your pelvic floor and they restrict your natural range of motion. This gentle stretch will open your hips and pelvic floor.
- Lie on your back with both feet flat on the ground. Place your right ankle on your left knee, flexing the right foot.
- Lift your legs off the ground. Wrap either a strap or your hands around the back of your left thigh. Gently hug your knees in. You should feel a stretch in your right butt cheek.
- Hold for 30-60 seconds. Repeat on the other side. Try to complete multiple times throughout the day.
Aim to walk for 30-60 minutes every day. Cardiovascular exercise is a great way to encourage blood flow throughout your body, relax your muscles and ease tension. Although this is an easy step to skip, this is the most important thing you can do for your pelvic floor, especially if you live a sedentary life.
Find a steady, brisk pace that you can maintain for 30-60 minutes every day. Overtime, you’ll see improvements in your pelvic floor and your tension will slowly start to ease.
No one should suffer from pelvic pain! Sex should be fun and enjoyable! Urination should happen when we want it! We can loosen our muscles and relax the pelvic floor.
Once your pain subsides, you’ll start the strengthening exercises in next week’s blog.
Yoga Teachers – Are you ready to help your yoga students Restore Their Pelvic Floor? Attend my online workshop – Teaching Yoga for the Pelvic Floor- to learn stretches and strengthening exercises for the pelvic floor. By the end of this workshop, you’ll have the tools to teach your own workshop or class series!