Whoops! Incontinence. How to avoid it. A handy little cross-section. Why Yoga is a Godsend for your pelvis.
In my many years of teaching pre and post-natal yoga, I have come across many and varied issues related to pre and post birth. Unfortunately, a very common issue relates to our pelvic floor. In this lesson I will guide you through why the pelvic floor is so important and how to avoid the incontinence aisle of your local supermarket.
Your pelvic floor consists of interwoven muscles that link the base of your spine and the front of your pelvis – like a supportive hammock. If these muscles are weakened you can find yourself leaking wee when you cough, sneeze or even (damn it) laugh. Want to bounce on the trampoline with your toddler? Forget it.
Whilst it’s nothing to be embarrassed about, it is incredibly common and something we all wish to avoid. Therefore, it’s vital that all pregnant women practice their pelvic floor exercises (also known as Kegels).
The Causes behind a weak Pelvic Floor
Pregnancy and birth place undue pressure on your pelvic floor. Pregnancy increases the amount of the hormone progesterone in your body, which causes all your muscles to soften. Both pregnancy and birth stretch the pelvic muscles, which are responsible for tightening the bladder, vagina and bowel. Once these muscles have been weakened, they can no longer stop your bladder from leaking or –in a worst case scenario – keep your uterus in place, leading to uterine prolapse.
How you can prevent a weak Pelvic Floor
Kegel exercises can help you counteract this natural softening. To locate your pelvic muscles, simply stop your flow of urine mid-stream. If you can’t, you know your pelvic floor is already weak. Please don’t become alarmed, as it’s not hard to rectify. To exercise these muscles you need to draw ‘in’ and ‘up’. It may take some time to perfect, but practicing whilst on the toilet, stopping your flow, will help enormously. (Please note – not too often though, as this practice can be detrimental if you suffer Urinary Tract Infections, common in pregnancy). Once you contracted your pelvic muscles, hold them for up to 5 seconds and release. Repeat up to 10 times. The beauty of Kegel exercises is that they can be performed anywhere. In the car, at the office, in the supermarket.
How can Yoga help?
It’s great that you can perform these handy exercises whenever and wherever. The reality is, however, we forget. Life is busy. And you may not feel comfortable flexing your muscles in public! But when you’re practicing prenatal yoga, no-one cares if you’re pulling a face whilst you’re concentrating so hard.
I always make the pelvic floor a focus in pregnancy yoga. My entire second class of my Prenatal Yoga Course, is dedicated to it. After the basics of postures, it’s the most important skill to teach. That way, you can practice the exercises throughout the rest of my yoga course. There are simple yoga poses that lend themselves to working with the pelvic floor. The key is to work with and against your breath.
Any good prenatal class will include lessons on working with your pelvic floor. It will require your concentration but don’t be daunted – once you establish a connection with these muscles, it’s relatively easy to keep them toned. A word of caution – try not to over practice. As I mentioned earlier, these muscles control the vagina. And if you’re having a vaginal birth, you’ll need your pelvic floor to soften and open.
Practice your Kegels no more than 3 times a day. As with everything, exercise requires balance.