Weak pelvic floor muscles are responsible for several health issues in both men and women, yet enormous improvements can be made by exercising the pelvic floor muscles for a few minutes each day. They are a group of muscles stretching from the pubic bone to the tail bone, a bit like a hammock, and are responsible for supporting the pelvic organs (bladder, intestines and in women the uterus) as well as contributing to the closing mechanism of the urethra and anus.
So what are the benefits of a strong pelvic floor?
- Improved control of the bladder
- Improved control of the bowels (and if these two aren’t a problem now, they may well be in later life)
- Improved muscle tone during pregnancy and post partum
- A regular programme of pelvic floor exercises has shown to have the same success rate as Viagra and is a safer, healthier, cheaper option.
- It has been claimed that it can help prevent prostate cancer and is strongly recommended for men after a prostatectomy.
The pelvic floor muscles are part of the core muscle group, so Pilates and other core strength exercises will target these muscles if performed correctly. In yoga we refer to the core contraction as mula bandha and I recently came across a excellent visual to help engage the core effectively and correctly, without tension:-
Simply put, the core area is roughly between the hip bones, pubic bone and navel. Imagine this area to be an empty space with a very small candle flame at the bottom: to engage the core muscles, start by gently drawing up the pelvic floor and drawing back the lower belly as if you are trying to squeeze the small, round flame into a tall, thin flame, reaching up to the navel. Another visual is the elevator as it lifts through the floors, the top floor being the navel. You can practise engaging and releasing anywhere, anytime: if others are aware that you are doing so then you are getting it wrong!