The first part to deepening your pelvic floor (PF) awareness is being able to visualise the muscles. To help you visualise these muscles we are going to talk about their anatomy and function.
Pelvic Floor Anatomy
The PF is a group of muscles that form a ‘hammock’ or ‘trampoline’ at the base of your pelvis. The picture above shows a great bird’s eye view of these muscles and how they attach from the front of the pelvis, at the pubic bones, all the way to the back of the pelvis, to the tailbone, and out to the sides, to the sit bones.
Pelvic Floor Function
In a female there are three openings in the PF through which the urethra, vagina, and rectum pass. In a male there are only two. Just like a trampoline the PF can move up and down. When the PF contracts it gently lifts up and tightens around the urethra, vagina and rectum. This gives you control over your bladder & bowel, allowing you to hold or delay a pee or poop. When the PF relaxes it moves down and lengthens, reducing the pressure around the urethra and rectum, allowing you to empty your bladder and bowel. The PF is also responsible for sexual function, this includes sensation, arousal and the ability to achieve an orgasm. It is important the PF has adequate elasticity to allow for vaginal penetration, pap smears or tampons.
Given the significance of the above functions, it is very important to have great PF awareness! To be able to feel the ‘ON’ – when your PF contracts, lifts and tightens. But also feel the ‘OFF’ – when you PF relaxes, drops and lengthens. The best cue to use when contracting your PF is imagine you’re stopping wee and preventing the passing of wind (making sure your tummy and bottom muscles stay relaxed and pelvis still). The second part to deepening your awareness is to visualise the ON and the OFF of the PF. To help with this visualisation we often use the ‘Pebble in the pond’ analogy.
Visualisations – Pebble in the Pond
To help achieve the ‘OFF’ part of your pelvic floor awareness imagine a pebble falling into the centre of a still pond. Picture the ripples spreading outwards to the edges of the pond. This is your pelvic floor relaxing, dropping down, and opening around your passages.
Now imagine this image in reverse to turn your pelvic floor ‘ON’. The ripples drawing in to the centre and the droplets rising up out of the pond. This is your pelvic floor tightening and lifting around your front and back passages.
If you struggle to feel your PF contract and relax, the third part to deepening your awareness is to try the following poses during your ON/OFF contractions.
Poses to assist your Pelvic Floor awareness
A lot of women (especially during or directly after pregnancy) find Childs pose an excellent position for improving PF feedback. In particular, feeling the tightening around the urethra and vagina. Give it a try and let us know what you think!
Inverted position with roller
Another great position to improve your PF awareness (especially for those with weaker pelvic floor muscles) is lying on your back with a roller (or rolled up pillow/towels) under your pelvis. Elevating your pelvis higher than your heart. This makes your pelvic floor contractions gravity assisted!
If you find that you are still struggling to ‘feel’ your PF or you are unsure you are doing your exercises correctly, or if you would like to progress your pelvic floor muscle training please book into see one of our pelvic physiotherapists.