Pelvic Floor 101: What You Need to Know About Down There

 as printed in OMagine: Yoga, Wellness, & Wisdom magazine by DevaTree School of YogaOMagine

By Shannon Crow & Kim McDonald-Heilandt

Let’s talk about an amazing part of our anatomy: the pelvic floor. Why should we be talking about what’s going on “down there”? Because our emotional and physical health depends on this often ignored part of our bodies.

Our fascination with the pelvic floor began when we became prenatal yoga trainers, but we soon realized that this was not just a conversation for child-bearing women.

The pelvic floor impacts men’s health too, as well as women who may choose never to get pregnant.

Let’s back up a moment to look at the bigger picture. We often hear about “the core” in yoga and exercise. When discussing “the core,” it can be helpful to think of The Core Four (which we learned so much about from Sinead Dufour and Bellies Inc.).

The Core Four consists of the:

  1. Diaphragm, the dome-shaped muscle attached to the base of the ribs which is vital for breathing.
  2. Transverse Abdominus Muscles – the muscles in the abdomen running side to side. They form a corset around your midsection and are activated almost anytime a limb moves. (important for back health and stability, and for birthing babies)
  3. Multifidus Muscle – a series of muscles attached to the spinal column.(back and pelvic pain when weak)
  4. Pelvic Floor

What and where is the pelvic floor?

 The pelvic floor is a collection of muscles, nerves, tendons, blood vessels, ligaments,
and connective tissue all intertwined in the pelvis. It has 3 layers of muscles and
extends from the pubic bone to the tailbone (coccyx) and between sitz bones (bones
at the very bottom of the pelvis that touch the ground when sitting).

pregnant woman holding hands

Your pelvic floor is busy! Your pelvic floor:

  • Has a role in sexual health;
  • Supports our internal organs;
  • Prevents incontinence (urinary leakage);
  • Stabilizes and controls spine and pelvis;
  • And helps bring blood back to the trunk via the veins and lymphatic system.
You may have heard that Kegel exercises can be used to strengthen the pelvic floor
muscles. Kegels are when you lift and relax the entire pelvic floor area repeatedly.
Many people, however do these incorrectly and only focus on strengthening (the lifting action). But did you know that your pelvic floor can actually be too tight?
Kegels are useful when the engagement and relaxation of the pelvic floor get equal
attention and when they are used for a discreet purpose. However, it is important to
know that Kegels should be stopped when the underlying issue is resolved. A pelvic
physio can assess and let you know if you are doing Kegels properly and activating
the necessary muscles.

 When The Core Four are not working in synergy, we may experience:

  • Incontinence;
  • Pelvic organ prolapse; (the internal organs such as the bladder beginning to fall out of place and toward the vagina)
  • Pelvic girdle pain; (pain in the front or back of the pelvis)
  • Back pain;
  • Separation of the abdominal muscles. The term for this is Diastasis, and it can happen in both men and women. It is very common in pregnancy.
One in four women experience incontinence. Incontinence is defined as any urinary leakage of any amount at any time. If someone told you that with pregnancy, exercise, or age it is normal to be leaking urine please remember this:
While it is common, it isn’t normal and it isn’t something that we need to suffer from. It is embarrassing and often women are doing all they can to hide and cope without ever asking for help. The great news is that it is highly treatable and preventable.

What can we do to help our pelvic floor and the rest of The Core Four?

  1. See a pelvic-floor physiotherapist. This is by far the best thing that you can do. You will be amazed at what you learn about your body.
  2. Breathe fully. We love the “Jellyfish Breath”.
  3. Squat every day. Instead of leaning over to pick up your car keys when they drop on the ground, squat.
  4. Sit with a neutral pelvis. Notice right now if you are tucking your tailbone under. We do this a lot in this age of computers and couch sitting. Sit on a birthing ball or exercise ball, and stand more. Make sure to maintain your low back curve.
  5. If you are leaking urine, avoid running, jumping jacks, and other high impact activities until you rebuild your inner core.
The pelvic floor is so important and a healthy one can make a huge difference in the
comfort level of your body and quality of life. We encourage everyone to do all they
can to listen to their body and address any small issues before they grow.