Pilates and pelvic health

Clients often ask, why are the pelvis and the pelvic floor important?

The pelvis is the foundation for all our movement, balance, stability and mobility and as such needs to be continually strengthened. It is the centre of our body, where life itself begins. It is in a shape of a ring and consists of four main bones: the sacrum, two hipbones, and the coccyx. As a strong foundation, it supports our reproductive and elimination organs.

The pelvic floor is a hammock of muscles that connect the pubic bone at the front to the tailbone, i.e., coccyx and the sitting bones at the back.

We rarely give attention to the pelvis and pelvic floor unless we experience a problem related to it. It is in the pelvic floor that the root chakra (the muladhara) can be found. The energy of the root chakra influences both, the pelvic floor and legs and feet. The tension in these muscles must be balanced in the front, beneath the pubic bone and the back, where the sacrum is. These muscles must also work in cooperation with the deep back muscle and transversus abdominis for proper stabilization of the lumbar spine and sacroiliac joints. The pelvic floor is involved in many basic life functions: digestion, elimination, reproduction, breathing, and balance. A healthy functioning pelvic floor promotes greater health in all of these areas. The pelvic floor muscles along with the lower abdominals work in a coordinated system of muscles to support the hips and lower back. Pregnancy, childbirth, c-section’s, uterine fibroids, chronic smokers cough, obesity, hormonal changes as well as a sedentary life style could lead to decreased strength and flexibility.

How do we access and strengthen the pelvic floor?

During class, with cues like “Engage the pelvic floor” or “Pelvic floor up and in,” many students wonder how to engage their body in this way.

Pelvic floor muscles are hard to feel and notice in everyday activities, whether you are exercising or moving. The most known exercise is the Kegel – contraction that is introduced to pregnant women and people with incontinence issues.

Personally, I prefer engaging the pelvic floor by imagining bringing the sitting bones together and up and closing the opening of the vagina and anus through squeezing and lifting, i.e., trying to stop flatulence and trying to stop passing flow of urine mid-stream.

You can explore it yourself by:

• Lying on your back, with your feet flat on the floor in line with your hip sockets and your knees pointing up to the ceiling. Breathe into the belly, back ribs and side ribs, inhaling and exhaling to relax your body. On exhalation, contract your pelvic floor as though you are trying not to pee or pass wind. On inhalation release.

You could also activate your pelvic floor by:

•  imagining picking up marbles with the muscles of your vagina and moving it up towards your navel, as though the marbles were on an elevator.

IMT® and Pilates is an excellent way to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles and pelvic powerhouse (core). It teaches you to become aware of the muscles.

The level of engagement of your pelvic floor muscles should be balanced with the amount of exertion you need to perform doing different Pilates exercises. For example, light activation of the pelvic floor is required when doing Leg Lifts, whereas intense activation is required when doing the Single Leg Stretch or The Hundred.

So my dear Friends, love your pelvic floor and remember that these exercises can enhance your sexual pleasure!