1. Muscles do not work in isolation
First off, your body should function as a whole system, not just parts working alone. I make this point first, because your pelvic floor may be your "issue," but there is so much more than just what's "down there". You can read more about how muscles do not work alone.
2. Core! What is it good for?
The "core." Ugh, I hate that word, but let's run with it here, since its ubiquitous in our culture. Too many people think a tight core is a good thing. It's not. No muscles should be turned on all the time. That whole theory that tight abs means no low back pain is based on faulty reading of a study years ago, and is perpetuated to this day. But I digress.
So what exactly is your core anyway? Many think its the abdominals. And if they do crunches, and god forbid sit ups, they are addressing a muscle that isn't even part of the core. Your core, according to pelvic floor PT Julie Weibe, is made up of your diaphragm, pelvic floor, transversus abdominis (girdle muscles around your middle) and the multifidus (deep muscles along the spine). These guys should all play nice together, but often don't, resulting in the problems that brought you to this page.
3. Take a breath
If you take a deep breath, do your shoulders rise up? Most people's do too. But guess what? That means you are using your accessory breathing muscles. These are the smaller muscles around your neck and shoulders that kick in to help you breathe when in a state of fight or flight. If those guys are doing the work, the muscles that should be firing when you breathe--your diaphragm and intercostal muscles (between your ribs)-- aren't. So what, you ask? How we breathe impacts the pelvic floor. Breathe well and the pelvic floor is resilient, contracting and relaxing a bit with each breath. Breathing is one of the first things Somatic Educators explore with clients/students. Learning to breathe can solve a whole lot.
4. Enough with the Kegels already
Kegels are often doled out to help women in particular, but also men, with pelvic floor dysfunction. Theory being, that if you just tighten, tighten, tighten the pelvic floor, all will be resolved. But tight does not mean strong. Or functional. Or healthy. Muscles shorten to pull bones closer together. If you do a bicep curl the bicep muscles pull your forearm closer to your upper arm. But you wouldn't want to do that a million times a day, and get tighter and tighter biceps. You would end up with chronically bent arms. Not only that, once a muscle is chronically contracted, it starts losing it's resiliency, because those short tight muscles can't lengthen, limiting their full potential, ie power.
5. Untuck your bum
Kegel exercises draw the tailbone closer to the pubic bone. Too much sitting does too. There are women of a certain generation who were told to tighten their abs all the time and tuck their bums. All these motions contribute to a shortened pelvic floor. If a muscle is shortened, the opposing muscles can't do their jobs well. Let's go back to the biceps, as an anatomical analogy of sorts. As the biceps shorten, the triceps lengthen. And then vice versa. So, if the belly and pelvic floor are tight, the gluteal (butt) muscles can't do their jobs. All that sitting, tucking and tightening is probably why you have no junk in the trunk.
6. Can you pee in the woods (without peeing on your heels)?
How you squat tells a lot. We should all be able to squat, but modern life makes it really easy to avoid this motion. Our toilets are too high, our car seats tuck our bums, we sit too much. Again, the bum tucks under and squatting properly is next to impossible, resulting in peeing on our heels in the woods. Don't go out into the woods? (Well, ya should, but that's another post.) Squat and look at your side view in a mirror. Do you tuck your bum under? Does your low back look rounded? Something to note....
7. Train your bladder
Women are notorious for going to the bathroom when they see one. "I better go now because I might have to pee later, and there won't be a bathroom around." Your bladder is a reservoir. It's supposed to collect urine and when it is full, send you a signal to go to the bathroom. By making ourselves go, when we don't need to, we are training our bladders to be dysfunctional. Urinary frequency is different from urinary incontinence. Both are somewhat learned dysfunctions. Again, this post is the tip of the iceberg...
8. Heed the need, to poop
The colon, on the other hand, is not a reservoir. When you gotta poop, you should go do just that. Immediately. But we are fickle folks. We like our own bathrooms. We don't want people to hear us. Whatever. I've been right there with you, but we need to take care of business when our bodies say so. Think of it this way. Your body is telling you, time to get rid of some toxic crap. Literally. No one wants to hold toxicity in their bodies, right? So go do your business! What do you do if you want to avoid passing gas or pooping? You tighten your anal sphincter. Do that frequently enough, then when you do finally pass something it can be painful and challenging to do. Hemorroids anyone? Dogs and babies are quite happy when they poop. You can too!
9. It's not just women who have given birth that have pelvic floor dysfunction
Not every woman who has given birth vaginally has pelvic floor issues. Women AND men can have pelvic floor dysfunction. I haven't even touched on things like painful intercourse, impotence, the list goes on. But...
10. Our bodies are designed to find homeostasis
Falls, surgeries, pressures of life, fear, anxiety and more, throw our systems--how we function neuromuscularly and hormonally--out of whack. We ultimately are looking for homeostasis, some place in which our systems function a state of calm/neutral, and to be able to return to that state quickly. With somatic awareness you can find that neutral state.
Anyone can enhance one's somatic awareness by:
- paying attention to how one breathes
- sensing oneself from an internal perspective
- doing gentle movements called pandiculations that reset muscle length to full length without stretching or strengthening
I'll be covering all this and more at the Fundamentals of Somatics Workshop in Bellingham WA June 22-23 2019. There are spots still available. I'd love to share all the wonderful things Somatics can do.
freedom and ease for all,