9 Techniques for Pelvic Floor Activation

MMaybe you just had a baby, or are about to have one. You’ve probably been warned that childbirth can cause your pelvic floor to drop significantly, or even prolapse, meaning incontinence and decreased sexual satisfaction—and you’ve been told the answer is to do your Kegel exercises.

Not so fast. The thing is, we’ve come a long way since Kegels first entered women’s health chats.

“Kegels are an old-fashioned technique popularized by a male doctor (Dr. Kegel) in the 1940s,” shares Pilates instructor and postpartum corrective exercise expert Emma Bromley. “Although his work was groundbreaking at the time, we now know that Kegels don’t really give us the full picture.” Why? Your pelvic floor is not designed to function independently of the rest of you.

As innovative as Kegels may seem, Bromley says they actually overwhelm the delicate pelvic floor muscles. Over time, they can lead to extreme tension—and sometimes even excruciating pain. “There are no movements in life that require pelvic floor isolation, so it’s not really a particularly helpful thing to learn and, honestly, in many cases, does more harm than good,” he adds. “When someone tells me they’ve been doing Kegels regularly and have had no problems, I consider them one of the lucky few.”

Instead, the key is to fully engage your pelvic floor and core. “Your pelvic floor was designed by nature to work with the diaphragm and the rest of the body and with the breath,” says Bromley.

The problem? Since we can’t see the pelvic floor muscles, like the biceps or quads, it can be difficult to determine how to engage them. Finding the right combination takes both imagination and practice.

How do you activate your pelvic floor?

1. Start with your breath

The pelvic floor is located deep within the multi-layered muscular system of the pelvis, notes Brooke Cates, founder of The Bloom Method. He admits that connecting can be quite challenging at first.

“I like to help women tap into their entire pelvic floor muscles, starting with deep, slow diaphragmatic breathing,” she says. When you inhale, your pelvic floor muscles naturally lengthen and when you exhale, they naturally contract. “When one can feel the subtle movement of the pelvic floor in relation to the breath, we can go a little deeper.”

2. Imagine an arcade machine grabber

Cates suggests imagining lifting the pelvic floor as if it were a grabber claw. “All four pelvic floor points come together (think of a diamond shape, and as you lift up with your breath you want to draw all the points in the middle),” she explains. “The slower the breath the better. As you breathe in, imagine the grabber claw opening and all the dots moving away from each other.”

3. Try deep squats

“In a deep squat position (think: sumo squat) you inhale, open the pelvic floor, and as you rise, exhale and imagine picking up a blueberry or marble ball with your pelvic floor,” says Cates.

4. Think sucking through a straw

Regarding food, Cates says imagining a slurping sensation can also help. “Imagine your vagina sucking milkshake through a straw,” she suggests. “As you exhale, you’re literally sucking the milkshake with the contraction of your pelvic floor, and as you inhale, you release the milkshake back into the straw.”

5. Imagine going up in an elevator

For non-food-related cues, Megwyn White, clinical sexologist and Satisfier director of education, says imagine an elevator pulling you up inside you. “When your pelvic floor muscles contract, your internal organs rise upward and your vaginal, rectal, and urethral openings tighten,” she adds.

6. Do the same when you hold your urine

Tanya Bowler, CEO and founder of LV, says imagine you’re stopping the flow of your urine mid-stream. “This will help you identify where your pelvic floor muscles are,” she explains, quickly pointing out that this is important. no Use this exercise while actually urinating or as an exercise to strengthen your pelvic floor (it can actually damage your pelvic floor if done too often). “But knowing which muscles you want to focus on is a good strategy.”

7. Think about lifting and lacing

Instead of clenching your vagina and holding that tension, Bromley says to switch your focus to a lifting and lacing mindset. “Put your mind six inches below your belly button, and imagine that you’re just trying to lift all of your internal organs up—no clenching, just lifting,” he instructs. “Now we don’t want to teach the pelvic floor to work independently of the rest of the core, so here’s how to connect the dots: Put that lift on, and imagine someone strapping one of those old Victorian corsets really tightly around you. . That’s your transverse abdominals. (your wrapped abs).” Breathe in that position for 30 seconds, then relax and repeat.

8. Add a prop

If you want to strengthen your pelvic floor a step further, there’s always the option of including an accessory like the LV Trainer ($199). “You can strengthen your pelvic floor with expertly-designed workouts and use biofeedback to visualize the movements in real time so you’re performing them correctly,” Bowler says.

9. Place a finger inside

Want to make sure you’re activating everything correctly? White recommends placing a finger in your vagina. “You should feel a lifting/contracting sensation.”

Try this step-by-step tutorial to engage your pelvic floor from physio and Pilates instructor Chloe de Winter:

Something to note

It’s worth noting: Although conversations around the pelvic floor are directed toward people with vaginitis—and especially those who have recently given birth—in reality, men have a pelvic floor, too. Like women, the pelvic floor in men supports the bladder and bowels and plays a role in sexual performance.

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