Do you wonder what BREATHING has to do with bladder control, prolapse support or vaginal or anal pain??
Physios are not going woo-woo
It’s rather because clinical research & our understanding of the body has deepened, so pelvic floor exercises exercises are evolving. It’s no longer one size fits all.
There’s a good place for the traditional squeezes, lifts and holds, but some mums need to focus their attention more on the “let go”, relaxing and releasing of their muscles.
Pelvic floor relaxation is a thing
Previously exercises were very linear. Squeeze ON, release/turn off. Our focus was on what our muscles needed to be able to DO in an emergency situation – when we cough, sneeze, pick up something heavy. This is not wrong. If you struggle with stress incontinence (leaks when there is high pressure on the bladder) then the best thing you can learn is The Knack of getting the pelvic floor to co-ordinate with perfect timing.
However, we now know how our muscles should be doing when we are not thinking about them. The resting pattern of your muscles has an impact on common problems like urgency, bladder frequency, vaginal heaviness and pelvic pain.
#1 New thing we know
Firstly, our breathing pattern and our pelvic floor muscle movement pattern are similar and interconnected. Breathing is easier to understand, feel and control than the hidden away pelvic floor. So if you want to better connect to your pelvic floor – start by noticing how you breathe.
#2 Weird thing to notice
However, most of the day we don’t think about our breathing AT ALL. You wouldn’t have been thinking about yours a few minutes ago until I brought the topic up. Your brain operates your breathing system all day, all night, 24/7 without any conscious input from you. A gentle in and out, muscles contracting and releasing, a continuum of movement like a swinging pendulum, you are only completely full of air or completely released for a moment in time.
#3 Amazing thing we can do
Yet, you can also have incredible control over this system. For example, you could take a deep breath right now to blow out an imaginary candle; you could whistle a little tune; you could shout (or yodel) or pant like a dog. With training, you could develop sophisticated breath control as well – as a singer, long distance runner, athlete, deep sea diver, bird impressionist. Did you know that you need enormous breath control to accurately shoot a pistol or throw a dart?
And then, when you stop panting or wolf-whistling or humming a ditty, your brain just automatically puts you back into gentle breathing mode, no questions asked. A-MAZ-ING.
#4 Pelvic floor muscles should be super-skilled too
We want our pelvic floor muscles to have similar super powers. When we are NOT thinking about them we want them to gently (gently!) contract and relax, very low key, very little. Just enough to keep blood flowing through them, to nourish their feeder nerves. We want movement to keep the tissues stretchy and flexible. We want to be on standby for whatever we decide to do next.
Then, when you decide to pick up your toddler or dash up the stairs, we need them to move up a gear or two to help carry that load from below, preventing pelvic organ descent or a sudden urge to wee.
Similarly, if you want to push shut a heavy door, or hit a tennis serve, or do one of your room shattering sneezes, we want them to go into full tension mode to prevent leaks. And most important of all, if you want to empty your bladder or bowel, or get sexy with your partner you want them to relax and release to allow things out or in.
#5 Best thing to work on
In contrast, if your muscles are always tense they become “crampy” with painful sensations associated with a build up of lactic acid or the soreness to be touched or if stretched. Then if your muscles are always “in gear” you can’t choose to have “more” or “less” for the activity you are doing.
So take moments through the day to tune in to your breathing and from there to your pelvic floor muscles. Find time to reset your background, automatic, movement pattern to line yourself up for a day with super-powers.
Video: How to improve pelvic floor control by simply breathing
- Firstly, tune into your breathing pattern. Feel your rib cage lift and raise as you breathe in, drop and shrink as you breathe out. Play with it. Breathe deep, blow out an imaginary candle. Do this a couple of times. Then stop. Can you feel your body revert to your base breathing pattern?
- Then, notice how your BELLY breathes. Yes it does!! Drop your hands to abdomen. Channel your inner frog. Notice that your belly mimics your breath. As you breathe in your belly lifts as you breathe out it falls.
- Finally, lower your consciousness to your pelvic floor. It is the lowest moving set of muscles. Can you feel how these move to, in time with your breathing, ever so gently contracting & letting go. Or gathering & releasing, or lifting & lowering – whichever words work best for you.
Have you improved your pelvic floor skills by practicing breathing? Please let me know if this video and explanation was helpful and how you are getting on?