Pelvic floor stretches and overall therapy fulfill important functions such as supporting and cushioning the movements of the bladder, urethra, uterus, vagina, and rectum.
It also supports the proper functioning of defecation and urination. It intervenes in the involuntary contractions that occur when, for example, sneezing, acts as a support during pregnancy, facilitates childbirth, and regulates lubrication, arousal, and sensitivity of your sexual organs.
Therefore, if you don’t keep it properly toned, it can suffer dysfunctions such as hypotonia (muscle weakness) or hypertonia (excess muscle tone), which, in turn, lead to disorders related to urination, defecation, and sexual intercourse, as well as prolapse or dropping of the internal organs through the vagina.
Pelvic floor stretches therapy and what to expect
The objective of this “therapy” is to detect or prevent any injury involving the internal muscles of the pelvis, and through manual treatments, electrotherapy, osteopathic techniques, respiratory and diaphragmatic unblocking, get rid of pain and/or recurrent injuries completely.
With pelvic floor therapy, a specialist will work on the condition and strengthening for better health of the musculoskeletal system and rebalance the body in general, thus avoiding future injuries.
Think of your body as a box: at the top, we have the diaphragm, below is the pelvic floor, behind is our lumbar spine, and in front and to the sides, our abdominals.
At the end of the treatment, you will be able to activate your muscles perfectly, do your day-to-day activities in postures that don’t injure your pelvic floor, breathe correctly, and work your abdominals without hurting yourself.
A professional will help you control your body as a whole to be independent and adopt healthy habits in the short and long term.
Importance of relaxing the core
The pelvic floor is a set of muscles and connective tissue in the form of a suspension bridge located at the bottom of another structure: the abdominal girdle or core, a muscular system in the form of a corset composed of the diaphragm, the obliques, the rectus abdominis, the multifidus, and the transverse abdominal muscle, among others.
These work in coordination with functions as relevant as breathing, maintaining stability and spine balance (and, therefore, the whole-body), protecting the viscera, facilitating digestion and defecation (as well as urination), and controlling the internal pressures of the thorax and abdomen.
Performing certain sports and physical exercise or doing it incorrectly, breathing superficially, supporting inadequate physical postures, sedentary lifestyle, and inactivity will force the core to work inadequately, causing medium/long term tensions in the entire musculature that will in turn cause, among other conditions, impingement, contractures, back pain, and pelvic floor weakness.
That is why it is so important that you learn to breathe correctly and relax the abdominal girdle structure. How? By following simple pelvic floor stretches and exercises.
The function of the diaphragm
The diaphragm is a dome-shaped muscle located below the lungs, whose main function is breathing.
However, by separating the thoracic cavity from the abdominal cavity and due to its relationship with other anatomical structures of which it is part, it affects the proper functioning of the entire core, including, of course, the pelvic floor.
When we inhale, the diaphragm contracts and the lower ribs and abdomen expand, creating an internal vacuum that allows air to enter the lungs while at the same time pushing the abdominal cavity towards the pelvic floor, causing it to stretch.
Conversely, the diaphragm relaxes as the lungs empty on the exhale, causing all the core muscles to rise and the pelvic floor to relax.
The deeper the inhalation and exhalation, the greater the oxygenation of the organism, as well as the stretching and contraction of all the muscles involved; but, unfortunately, we do not usually breathe correctly, but in a superficial way, due, among other reasons, to inefficient postural hygiene and poor management of emotions.
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In the first case, daily situations such as sitting or standing incorrectly for a long time force the diaphragm (and the rest of the core) to function inefficiently and to make an additional effort that damages the pelvic floor, as it ends up weakening as it endures constant added pressure.
As for emotions, the diaphragm contracts when we experience tense, dramatic, or distressing situations, making it difficult to breathe deeply.
For example, when we are overwhelmed by a distressing or stressful situation, we tend to feel “a ball in the pit of our stomach,” and we breathe rapidly in a superficial way: it is the diaphragm reacting to the stimulus; that’s why it is recommended that you close your eyes and breathe in a slow, deep and conscious way until you calm down.
Learn to breathe
As you can see, breathing correctly increases the coordination of all the muscles that form the core, reduces its tension, increases the level of body oxygenation, and decreases blood pressure, stress, and anxiety.
Two exercises will allow you to become aware of breathing, relax the muscles and increase lung capacity. We show below:
To perform this exercise consisting of deep and conscious breaths, lie on your back with your knees slightly bent, close your eyes and place the palm of your hand on your abdomen, just in the space between the sternum and the navel, to be more aware of the movement of your belly when you inhale and exhale.
Breathe in through your nose slowly (if you do it fast, you may hyperventilate) and deeply while you perceive how your abdomen rises and visualize how your rib cage expands. All the muscles stretch and lengthen towards your pelvis, including the pelvic floor.
Breathe out through your mouth slowly until your lungs are empty while you feel your belly descend and visualize your rib cage contracting, your core muscles ascending, and how your pelvic floor stretches and relaxes. Repeat the exercise for five minutes.
When you master diaphragmatic breathing, you can do it at different times of the day, even standing and sitting (as long as your back is straight), which will be very beneficial because your body will be more oxygenated, you will relax the tension and stiffness of the core muscles, reduce the pressure on the spine and combat stress and anxiety.
The Shhh sound
Lie on your back with your eyes closed. Breathe in slowly through your nose until you feel that you have filled your lungs.
Then, place your tongue on top of your mouth and forcefully expel through it all the breath, making a sound with the S (similar to a balloon deflating or when you shout for someone to shut up) until your lungs are empty. Repeat the process ten times.
You may feel dizzy at first when you open your eyes, and it’s okay. It’s because you have received a shot of oxygen, and your brain is adjusting to it.
You will get used to it with time, and, most importantly, you will notice how your lung capacity has increased.
Relax your back with Balasana
Among all the recommended stretching exercises for the back and to relax the lower back, which especially supports the tension caused by incorrect postures, we recommend Balasana (or child’s pose).
This is because it is a very simple yoga position to perform that stretches the spine’s muscles relieving the pressure they bear, relaxes the whole body and reduces tension and stress.
It is contraindicated during pregnancy, so if you’re expecting a baby, substitute it for Marjaryasana or cat pose.
Sit on your heels on a mat or a flat cushion, with your ankles extended, toes back, and knees about hip-width apart or forming a straight line with your respective shoulder.
Breathe out slowly while slowly leaning your trunk forward until your forehead touches the floor. Then, stretch your arms backward, place them close to the sides of your body and rest the back of each hand on the floor with the palms facing upwards.
When you breathe in, visualize how your back rises to the sky, stretching and widening your entire spine; when you breathe out, visualize how your chest and belly descend until they rest, totally relaxed, on your thighs.
After taking three full breaths, slowly rise until you sit on your ankles, and finally, sit up fully.
You can also adopt this posture even if the other one is not uncomfortable or combine both because it deepens the stretch and relaxes the shoulders.
Inverse Kegel exercises differ from traditional Kegel exercises. In these, you contract and relax the pelvic floor muscles to tone the area and avoid hypotonia or weakness (and treat it when we suffer from it).
While in reverse Kegel exercises, you relax the pelvic muscles to increase their flexibility and relax the accumulated tension, avoid pain in sexual intercourse caused by hypertonia, and problems in urination and defecation caused by it.
How to perform them? Lie on your back with your legs slightly bent. Close your eyes. As discussed in the diaphragmatic breathing exercise, Breathe in deeply while visualizing how your abdominal muscles stretch and lengthen towards your pelvic floor.
Focus on your pelvic floor as you feel it slowly distend and move toward the entrance of your vagina.
To intensify the visualization effect, imagine the pubis rising and the coccyx lowering so that the pelvic floor muscles between the two lengthen and expand.
Then, exhale all the air slowly while visualizing the core muscles rising and the pelvic floor moving away from the entrance of the vagina and relaxing. Repeat the process for five minutes.
Once you have learned to do these exercises and have acquired some practice, you can also do them sitting in a chair, on a mat, or on cushions (as long as you are comfortable and your back is straight) and standing, as well as alternating them with traditional kegel exercises.
Pelvic floor stretches and self-massage
This self-massage will allow you to familiarize yourself with your vaginal muscles and reduce the tension caused by a pelvic floor with excess muscle tone.
Lie on your back in bed with your legs bent and spread apart for easier access to your vagina. You can also help yourself by placing a cushion under your butt to elevate your pelvis or lift one leg slightly bent and rest it against your chest.
Whatever position you adopt, the important thing is that you are comfortable, relaxed, and able to access the entrance of the vagina, which should be as open and distended as possible.
Insert your clean and lubricated fingers into the entrance of your vagina and feel its surface pressing delicately in a clockwise direction. At the same time, you visualize that its walls become more flexible and expand towards your interior.
Massage this way for about five minutes to stimulate blood flow, loosen the tissues and relax the muscles while breathing deeply with the diaphragm.
You can help yourself with “sex toys” and use vibrating bullets for the vaginal entrance and superficial areas of the vagina and long and thin vibrators to relax the deep musculature.
We hope all these tips will help you to relax your core and pelvic floor. However, if you think you are suffering from any dysfunction, please see a specialist for a personalized diagnosis.
The causes of pelvic floor dysfunctions are varied and can have a physiological or psychological origin (and even a combination of several factors); no one better than a professional to determine what yours is and prescribe the appropriate treatment.