When you think about the pelvic floor, does the word kegel come to mind? This is the case for most women, and while kegels tend to be the “go to” for pelvic floor health, The Bloom Method wants to help you build a healthier pelvic floor through balance and understanding how it relates to movement instead of simply focusing on “strengthening” the musculature through techniques such as kegels.
Many women think that kegels are the way to achieve optimal pelvic floor strength, but what we know is that relying on kegels as the answer can often lead to more dysfunction and exacerbate common injuries. At The Bloom Method, we encourage all women — whether preconception, prenatal, postnatal or never having had a baby — to really connect to the pelvic floor first and foremost through diaphragmatic breath. With each breath, women should feel the subtle movement that naturally happens in the pelvic floor. When we breathe, diaphragmatically, the pelvic floor moves in relation to every inhale and exhale, by lengthening on the inhale and rebounding with a slight muscle activation on the exhale. With breath, we aren’t as much trying to feel a kegel-like sensation as we are hoping to differentiate between the pelvic floor being supported and engaged, open and lengthened.
Once a woman can connect to the subtle fluidity of this movement, we want her to go a little bit further. Using our belly pump technique builds on that diaphragmatic breath concept, but instead of everything being subtle, the exhale shifts to a more intentional activation. With the belly pump, a woman can now begin to connect with the activation and lengthening of all three layers and points of the pelvic floor musculature.
Art by @studiododge
There are many visuals that we provide to help women understand how the pelvic floor should move, but one of the easier ones to connect with is thinking about a diamond shape. The diamond is your pelvic floor with the two side points being your sits bones and the top and bottom points being the tailbone and front of the pelvic bone. Now, we add the breath so the movement happens.
With the exhale, bring all four points of the diamond up and together during the activation. In this way, the activation is more optimal than just a kegel as it brings the entire pelvic floor along for the ride. A traditional kegel often only engages the muscles around the urethra. On the inhale, the diamond releases from its tight, more narrow position and opens back up into a slightly wider diamond than the visual might have started with. Following this opening and closing diamond visual with each inhale and exhale can turn on the foundation of pelvic floor connection.
Still not sure what I mean? Another visual that I often use is that of a claw crane. Think of how the claw brings all of its tongs together and then draws upward. #WINNER! And then when it releases, it drops down and opens up all the way.
The exhale of the belly pump is where a woman experiences a deeper activation of the pelvic floor (and the TVA). Similarly, on the inhale that follows, a woman can really feel into releasing all the areas of the pelvic floor that she just ignited and engaged. This is what we mean by balance and pelvic floor strength. It’s not just about the exhale and the activation but also about the inhale and the release. For a group of muscles to be truly strong, they must be able to activate and release.
The inhalation, the release and the lengthening of those pelvic floor muscles is just as crucial because the pelvic floor needs to know not only how to engage upon demand (when lifting, coughing, sneezing, etc.) but also how to lengthen and release. Practicing the balance around both engaging and releasing is crucial to optimal pelvic floor strength and healing PF related injuries such as incontinence, prolapse and painful intercourse to name a few.
Your breath is the foundation for helping bring balance and true strength to the pelvic floor. With diaphragmatic breathing, the pelvic floor moves like a buoy in the ocean. Each breath is a wave and the pelvic floor rises very subtly with the exhale and falls very subtly with the inhale. There is no forceful effort happening like with the belly pump and other intentional activation techniques that we teach. As you engage in diaphragmatic breathing, shift your attention to those sensations – both the activation and the release; feeling into this will bring about the balance your pelvic floor craves.
With all this talk about balance, how do these techniques address an imbalanced pelvic floor? We’ve touched on how to bring overall balance to these inner unit muscles but what about shifting away from an imbalance that we can’t seem to escape? What about those of us whose pelvic floor muscles have a tendency to be overactive or weak? Up next, we’ll shed some light on balance and the overactive pelvic floor.
Until then, stay BALANCED mamas!