Your pelvic floor deserves your attention.
We spend a lot of time clenching, bearing down, and white-knuckling our way through our busy, fast-paced lives. And although it is perfectly normal to go, go, go — especially in the world we live in — the constant stress and depletion from being “on” 24/7 can really take a toll on the body, particularly the pelvic floor.
Western culture often forgets about the pelvic floor’s everyday functionality and only pays attention to it when sex or childbirth are concerned. “The reality is, those are two very extreme things,” says Lauren Roxburgh, a body alignment specialist and author of The Power Source: The Hidden Key to Ignite Your Core, Empower Your Body, Release Stress, and Realign Your Life. Because of that, Roxburgh prefers to call the pelvic floor the pelvic core because “it’s part of your deeper core,” which is necessary for more range of motion, flexibility and overall core strength.
What exactly is the pelvic floor? Anatomically, it is “a hammock of muscles that attach the pubic bone, tail bone and sitz bones [aka, your sitting bones],” explains Roxburgh. “It’s a lot of layers and little muscles that wrap through each other and hold our organs in place.”
But, there is more to the pelvic floor (or pelvic core, in Roxburgh’s words) than its physical structure. Because of its location, there is an emotional component, too. The bones that act as pillars for the pelvic floor are located in the area of your body referred to as the root. “It’s the area where we tend to hold a lot of stress and clutch down and contract — a lot of times we don’t realize that it’s happening,” says Roxburgh. “The muscles and the nerves start to atrophy so we lose tone because it’s just always hypertonic, hyper clutching, [and] holding on — it actually makes the muscles weaken.”
Strengthening your pelvic floor
When it comes to strengthening your pelvic floor, there are misconceptions. Many people believe that a tight, toned pelvic floor is a strong pelvic floor. However, Roxburgh says you want to create a more resilient pelvic floor, instead. “I like to use that word because it makes me think of being able to expand and contract the muscles, tissue and energy.” And strengthening the pelvic floor only ties back to our health and well-being — creating a more dynamic deep core can help us release that tension and build strength from the inside out.
The pelvic floor also helps keep some of our organs — such as the bladder, uterus and small intestine — in place.
To break it down, she suggests bringing your attention to a larger known muscle, like the bicep. “If you’re doing bicep curls and you’re holding the bicep only halfway, it’s weak. But, if you go fully into [an] extension to lengthen that tissue and then you go all the way to concentric [shortening the muscle], then you’re going to have a lot more strength,” she explains. “If you’re stuck in the middle — which is that hypertonic clutching and squeezing — it’s actually quite weak.” How does this all relate to the pelvic floor? “What we need to have a healthy, strong pelvic floor that’s connected, supported, and keeps your organs, core and spine in the right position [is] more elasticity and resilience, as well [as] the ability to squeeze and lengthen,” Roxburgh notes.
All you need is the ability to squat and visualize your pelvic floor.
Exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor
Although pelvic floor exercises are typically only thought of in conversations surrounding postpartum or stress, Roxburgh says everyone can benefit from strengthening the deep core, especially those that sit a lot or carry a lot of stress.
And even though strengthening a muscle inside your body might sound a little challenging, it is actually simpler than you think. While Roxburgh loves to incorporate some tools into her pelvic floor exercises, she says some can be done without equipment, too. All you need is the ability to squat and visualize your pelvic floor.
Roxburgh says this awareness — aka visualization — should be a daily practice. However, the exercises should fit in your life in a way that makes sense. If you work out three to four days a week, she recommends practicing your deep squats, sitting on a squishy ball, or rebounding for a few minutes a day that often, too. The more you make strengthening your pelvic floor part of your daily routine, the more the habit will come naturally.
The visualization practice is all about “turning on the neuromuscular connection from the brain to the bod and getting in tune with your nervous system [to] notice if you’re in that stressed out fight or flight adrenal fatigue state.” It’s also something you can do virtually anywhere, making it that much easier to strengthen your pelvic floor.
“I always use the visualization of a rosebud. It’s the idea of squeezing the pelvic floor muscles — pulling [them] up and in like a suction cup into our organs — and imagining it three-dimensionally like a circle of muscles and then wrapping (from your mind) and squeezing before slowly letting it drop down and expand like a flower blooming.”
The first thing Roxburgh suggests is a deep squat. If you don’t have the flexibility, she recommends rolling up a yoga mat and placing it under your heels for extra support. “Sitting in a deep squat is how we open and expand our pelvic floor,” she notes. Doing this a few times a day — or tacking it onto the end of your workouts — can help you create a more dynamic and resilient pelvic floor over time.
Sit on a Core Training Ball
In addition to the exercises that require no equipment, Roxburgh also recommends a squishy core training ball — also called a “bender ball” — blown up about 70 percent of the way. “When you sit on the [ball], you can open your sitz bones around it and then let the pelvic floor melt over the ball,” she explains. To reap the benefits of this pelvic floor exercise, Roxburgh says to start by moving your pelvis in “anterior and posterior tilts.” Then, add on some spinal circles to really get into the area. After that, lift one leg up and “internally rotate the leg so that you feel the connection of the pelvic floor muscles to the inner thighs, calves and feet.” As an added bonus, you might notice your flexibility start to improve. “The pelvic floor is connected to the lower back, hamstring flexibility, and range of motion, so whenever we can get into where the muscles attach to the joints, we free up emotional energy and also thickness, density and congestion,” she says.
Albeit an investment piece, Roxburgh raves about the rebounder for strengthening the pelvic floor. A rebounder looks like a trampoline but uses bungees instead of springs to create a swooping motion that helps strengthen the pelvic floor. “Lightly bounding on a rebounder naturally fires the pelvic floor because when you go up, it squeezes upward and pulls in and then when you go down it opens and expands,” she notes. “The rebounder is almost a full reflection of what the pelvic floor looks like.”
When shopping for a rebounder, Roxburgh’s first choice is the Bellicon. However, if that is not in your budget, she recommends finding a rebounder that has the bungees instead of springs and splurging on the ones that are a mid-price range, as they are higher quality.
In addition to Roxburgh’s techniques, there are ways to strengthen the pelvic floor in-office, too. Emsella — which can help strengthen the pelvic floor as well as promote bladder control — is a 28-minute session equivalent to doing 11,000 kegels. The breakthrough treatment is a noninvasive way to help reverse the effects of childbirth, aging and menopause on the pelvic floor through stimulation that helps realign and strengthen.
Right now, Lauren Roxburgh is offering one free month of her Aligned Life Studio with the purchase of her book, The Power Source. The studio features dozens of videos on strengthening the pelvic floor, as well as her tried-and-true alignment exercises. To claim your free month, visit www.powersourcebook.com.
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