How can we strengthen this muscle base?
In an effort to acquire more educational resources in the context of movement therapy, I’ve come across a few alerts regarding our pelvic floor.
Did you know that 1 out of 2 women and 1 out of 4 men will suffer from a pelvic floor disorder in their lifetime? Unlike the bicep or the hamstrings, the pelvic floor muscle is hidden from view. We take for granted that it even exists and therefore make no effort to put it to use. A case of “Out of sight, out of mind.”
I, like many other women, didn’t know much about the pelvic floor before pregnancy. I’d heard of Kegels from Samantha on Sex and The City years ago but understood these exercises as a resource for more pleasurable orgasms, not as a prevention method against ailments relating to this crucial muscle base sustaining our entire pelvic organ structure.
I did become more curious about it, however, after witnessing the magical transformation this area of my body underwent creating a life inside of me and birthing one. It’s been truly fascinating to unravel how these joints and muscles connect, understanding the articulations originating from them and exploring the power within them. It has also served me well in the post- partum stage but unintentionally, I’d already been empowering these muscles long before with my daily Booty Dance classes.
I was surprised to hear about bladder leaks from friends who’d enjoyed all natural births with babies much smaller than mine. I later realized that the only reason I hadn’t suffered from this affliction was because I was constantly strengthening my pelvic muscles in class.
How common are pelvic floor disorders?
The pelvis, our root chakra, center of all stability and sacred space, where life is brought into this world has been cast aside due to years of moral, religious and pseudo-intellectual prejudice.
As these muscles are connected to and form part of our sexual organs (not to mention their inherent relation with bowel movements), they're considered taboo and are ignored until after they’re already damaged.
While attending a conference about the female pelvis in relation to dance and daily life, I learned some more troubling figures. According to speaker Ana Velasquez, 40% of classic ballet dancers report “pee leaks” when they laugh due to the impact of repeated jumping without activating their pelvic floor muscles. So not only was this issue affecting moms but also young girls and women who’d never even given birth.
Another realm that’s been impacted by this worrisome trend is the fitness scene. My physiotherapist sent me a video of the Reebok Crossfit Games where female athletes reported consistently peeing during workouts. Instead of proposing methods of prevention for this issue, the video instead downplayed incontinence and turned it into a laughing matter. Ironically, they associated “pee leaks” with who put forth the most effort. Let’s get one thing straight: even though peeing while laughing, sneezing, or exercising may be common, it’s not normal. It’s actually considered a real health hazard by the GHO.
In my opinion, there’s a lot of patriarchal rhetoric wrapped up in this matter. It’s caused us to block, shut down and intellectualize this part of our body responsible for all human sexuality and reproduction. Instead of being encouraged to activate and explore this area, society urges us to confine all pelvic movement to the bedroom. Just as teaching abstinence led to a rise in teenage pregnancy during the Bush administration, villianizing consciousness of our sexual organs has led to half of the female population suffering from a pelvic disorder. Hippocrates warned us way back when: “All parts of the body which have a function… if unused and left idle become liable to disease, defective in growth and age quickly.”
Most common pelvic floor exercises and what worked for me
The well-known methods for pelvic floor strengthening are hypopressives and kegels. Unfortunately (or not), neither of them were my cup of tea.
I found Hypopressives extremely boring and time-consuming. Kegel exercises were less arduous but Kegel himself recommends between 200-400 daily repetitions for real results and I just couldn’t be bothered.
At this point you might be asking yourself what did work for me!
As a Booty Dance instructor, I use my pelvis every day in dance and movement therapy with swift, sharp movements like the twerk, which, as maintained by my obgyn, accounts for how my pelvic floor is “stronger than many women who’ve never given birth” (not to mention with forceps and a 9 1/2 pounder). These same pelvic movements are the reason why my lower vertebrae are so flexible and toned, according to my chiropractor.
Nonetheless, I also employ little gems of info I’ve learned along the voyage to better pelvic floor health. For example, I always keep my feet elevated and open my mouth when I’m going number 2 as world renowned midwife Ina May Gaskin infers: “the state of relaxation of the mouth and jaw is directly correlated to the ability of the cervix, the vagina, and the anus to open to full capacity.”
I also never “push” while peeing or pooping. (For these same reasons, telling a woman to push in labor is never recommended though omnipresent.) Some may consider all this a bit TMI. Perhaps. But better to discuss traditionally taboo topics than have to wear adult diapers or in severe cases, have my bladder prolapse into my vagina.
So in the end, what’s worked best for me is simply integrating pelvic floor consciousness to my everyday activities in addition to the pelvic muscle strengthening I exercise in classes.
To all the women out there, what has been your experience with the pelvic floor? What pelvic floor exercises have worked best for you? For all my mamas, were you aware of this area before pregnancy?