Hey there, fellow yogis! It's Jack, your third favorite yoga teacher, and today I'm excited to dive into a topic that's difficult to get to: Yoga for Pelvic Floor. While it's not always the most talked-about subject in the yoga world, focusing on your pelvic floor health is incredibly important and can make a world of difference in your overall well-being.
In this focused blog post, we'll touch on the importance of pelvic floor health and how integrating targeted yoga poses and sequences into your practice can help strengthen and support this essential group of muscles. Whether you're a seasoned yoga practitioner, a fellow teacher, or someone just beginning to explore the world of yoga, I know you'll find value in this information. So, let's roll out our mats and get started!
What Is the Pelvic Floor?
The pelvic floor is a group of muscles that form a supportive "hammock" at the base of your pelvis. These muscles play a crucial role in supporting your internal organs, maintaining continence, and contributing to sexual function. While it's easy to overlook, maintaining a strong and healthy pelvic floor is vital to your overall health and well-being.
Why Focus on Yoga for Pelvic Floor Health?
Yoga is a fantastic way to help improve your pelvic floor strength and function. The practice of yoga integrates mindful movement, breath awareness, and focused attention, which can all contribute to better pelvic floor health. Through targeted poses and sequences, you can develop a deeper connection to your pelvic floor and work on strengthening and relaxing these muscles, leading to better support, increased stability, and even improved sexual function.
Mula Bandha and Yoga for Pelvic Floor
In our exploration of yoga for pelvic floor health, I'd like to introduce you to a powerful technique called Mula Bandha. Often referred to as the "root lock," Mula Bandha is an essential component of many yoga practices, and it can greatly enhance your pelvic floor work. So, let's take a closer look at this ancient practice and how it connects to your pelvic floor.
What is Mula Bandha?
Mula Bandha is one of the three primary "locks" or energy seals in the yogic tradition. It involves gently contracting and lifting the pelvic floor muscles to create an energetic barrier that helps channel energy (prana) upwards through the body. By engaging Mula Bandha, you can create a sense of grounding, strength, and stability in your practice.
How to Practice Mula Bandha
To engage Mula Bandha, follow these steps:
- Find a comfortable seated position, either cross-legged on a cushion or with your legs extended in front of you.
- Inhale deeply, expanding your belly and chest.
- As you exhale, gently contract and lift your pelvic floor muscles. Imagine drawing the muscles between your pubic bone and tailbone towards each other and up towards your navel.
- Maintain the gentle contraction as you breathe in and out, keeping your abdominal muscles relaxed.
- Hold Mula Bandha for several breaths, then release on an exhale.
Integrating Mula Bandha into Your Yoga Practice
Once you're familiar with Mula Bandha, you can start integrating it into your yoga practice, especially during poses that target the pelvic floor. Here are some examples:
Bridge Pose: Engage Mula Bandha as you lift your hips, creating more stability and strength in the pose.
Yogi Squat: In Malasana, use Mula Bandha to help maintain balance and engage your core more effectively.
Standing Poses: In poses like Warrior II and Triangle, practice Mula Bandha to enhance your connection to the ground and improve your overall alignment.
Benefits of Mula Bandha for Pelvic Floor Health
Practicing Mula Bandha regularly can have a significant impact on your pelvic floor health. Some of the key benefits include:
Increased pelvic floor awareness: Mula Bandha helps you become more aware of your pelvic floor muscles, making it easier to engage and strengthen them in your yoga practice.
Improved strength and stability: Engaging Mula Bandha can help you access your core muscles more effectively, leading to increased strength and stability in your poses.
Enhanced energy flow: Mula Bandha is said to stimulate the flow of energy (prana) in the body, supporting overall health and vitality.
As you continue to explore yoga for pelvic floor health, remember to integrate Mula Bandha into your practice. By connecting to this powerful energetic lock, you'll be able to enhance your pelvic floor work and experience even greater benefits.
Top Yoga Poses for Strengthening the Pelvic Floor
Here are some of my favorite yoga poses for strengthening and supporting your pelvic floor. These poses are not only beneficial for your pelvic health but also offer a fantastic way to enhance your overall yoga practice. Let's dive in and explore these fantastic poses together!
1) Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
Bridge pose is an excellent way to engage and strengthen the pelvic floor muscles while also opening the hips and stretching the spine.
How to perform
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet hip-width apart, flat on the floor. Press your arms into the floor alongside your body, palms down. As you inhale, engage your pelvic floor and lift your hips towards the sky, keeping your thighs parallel. Hold for 5-10 breaths before gently lowering your hips back down on an exhale.
For more support, place a yoga block or bolster beneath your sacrum. To challenge yourself, lift one leg towards the sky while holding the pose.
Be cautious if you have any neck, shoulder, or lower back issues.
2) Happy Baby Pose (Ananda Balasana)
Happy Baby is a gentle, grounding pose that stretches the hips, thighs, and groin while also allowing you to connect with and engage your pelvic floor muscles.
How to perform
Lie on your back and bring your knees towards your chest. Grab the outer edges of your feet with your hands, keeping your knees wide and aligned with your shoulders. Gently pull your feet downward, engaging your pelvic floor as you do so. Hold for 5-10 breaths.
Use a yoga strap around your feet if you can't reach them comfortably, or hold onto your ankles or shins for a more accessible version of the pose.
Avoid this pose if you have any knee or hip injuries.
3) Child's Pose (Balasana)
Child's Pose is a restorative pose that allows you to focus on your breath and connect with your pelvic floor muscles while stretching the hips, thighs, and spine.
How to perform
Kneel on your mat with your knees slightly wider than hip-width apart and your big toes touching. Sit back on your heels, and as you exhale, fold forward, resting your torso between your thighs. Extend your arms forward or alongside your body, palms facing down. Breathe deeply and engage your pelvic floor as you hold the pose for 5-10 breaths.
Place a folded blanket or bolster between your thighs and torso for added support or rest your forehead on a block if it doesn't comfortably reach the mat.
Be cautious if you have any knee, hip, or ankle issues.
A Guide to Pelvic Floor Anatomy for Yogis
Before diving deeper into yoga for pelvic floor poses, it's essential to understand the pelvic floor anatomy to ensure a safe and effective experience. So, let's explore the key components of the pelvic floor and how they relate to your yoga practice.
What is the Pelvic Floor?
The pelvic floor is a group of muscles, ligaments, and connective tissues that stretch like a hammock from the pubic bone at the front of your pelvis to the tailbone at the back. It provides support to your pelvic organs, such as the bladder, uterus or prostate, and rectum.
Main Pelvic Floor Muscles
There are several key muscles within the pelvic floor, including:
This muscle group consists of three parts – the puborectalis, pubococcygeus, and iliococcygeus. Together, they form the most crucial component of the pelvic floor, providing support and helping to maintain continence.
This triangular-shaped muscle extends from the ischial spine to the lower sacrum and coccyx. It plays a role in supporting the pelvic organs and maintaining the position of the coccyx.
Located on either side of the pelvis, this muscle helps to stabilize the hip joint and assists in hip rotation.
How the Pelvic Floor Affects Your Yoga Practice
Understanding the pelvic floor anatomy is vital for your yoga practice, as it enables you to engage and strengthen these muscles effectively. Here's how the pelvic floor comes into play during your practice:
Support and stability: A strong pelvic floor helps maintain balance and stability in various yoga poses, especially those requiring core engagement.
Breath and bandhas: In yoga, we often use breath control (pranayama) and energy locks (bandhas) to enhance our practice. The pelvic floor plays a crucial role in engaging mula bandha, the root lock, which helps to create a sense of grounding and control.
Preventing injury: A well-functioning pelvic floor helps prevent injuries and issues related to incontinence, organ prolapse, and lower back pain.
Pregnancy and postpartum support: For women, a strong pelvic floor is essential during pregnancy and postpartum recovery. It helps to support the growing baby and assists with childbirth and recovery.
By understanding the anatomy of your pelvic floor, you can better engage these muscles in your yoga practice, leading to improved strength, stability, and overall pelvic health. As you continue your journey with yoga for pelvic floor health, remember to approach your practice with mindfulness and respect for your body's unique needs.
A Focused Pelvic Floor Yoga Sequence
I'm excited to guide you through a short, yet powerful yoga sequence designed to help you strengthen and support your pelvic floor. This sequence can be parted into your regular practice or performed on its own, offering numerous benefits for your overall pelvic health. Let's get started!
1) Warm-Up and Breath Awareness
Begin by finding a comfortable seated position on your mat, with your sit bones grounded and your spine tall. Close your eyes and take a few moments to connect with your breath, observing its natural rhythm. As you breathe, bring your awareness to your pelvic floor, feeling the gentle rise and fall with each inhale and exhale.
2) Cat-Cow Pose: Flowing with the Breath
Transition onto your hands and knees, aligning your wrists under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. As you inhale, drop your belly and lift your gaze and tailbone, moving into Cow Pose. As you exhale, round your spine, tuck your tailbone, and draw your chin toward your chest, moving into Cat Pose. Continue to flow between these two poses for 5-10 breaths, engaging your pelvic floor as you move.
3) Malasana: Building Strength
From your hands and knees, step your feet out wider than hip-width apart and turn your toes outward. Slowly lower your hips toward the ground, coming into a deep squat known as Malasana or Yogi Squat. Bring your palms together at your heart center and use your elbows to gently press your knees outward. Hold for 5-10 breaths, engaging your pelvic floor and lifting your chest.
4) Child's Pose: Rest and Rejuvenation
Straighten your legs and sit back on your heels, preparing for Child's Pose. Separate your knees slightly wider than hip-width apart and fold forward, resting your torso between your thighs. Extend your arms forward or alongside your body, palms facing down. Breathe deeply, focusing on your pelvic floor as you hold the pose for 5-10 breaths.
5) Transitioning to Bridge Pose
Gently make your way onto your back, preparing for Bridge Pose. Bend your knees and place your feet hip-width apart, flat on the floor. Press your arms into the floor alongside your body, palms down, and lift the hips.
6) Reclined Bound Angle Pose: Opening the Hips
From Bridge Pose, lower your hips back to the ground. Bring the soles of your feet together, allowing your knees to fall open to the sides, forming a diamond shape with your legs. Rest your hands on your lower abdomen or alongside your body. Hold for 5-10 breaths, focusing on your pelvic floor and allowing your hips to gently open.
7) Supine Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose: Dynamic Stretching
Extend your legs along the mat, keeping them engaged. Bend your right knee and draw it toward your chest. Hold onto your right big toe with your right hand, or use your Asivana yoga strap around the arch of your right foot. Slowly straighten your right leg, stretching it upward. Hold for 5 breaths, engaging your pelvic floor. Release and switch to the left side.
8) Happy Baby Pose: Gentle Release
After completing Supine Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose on both sides, transition into Happy Baby Pose. Bend your knees and bring them toward your chest. Hold onto the outer edges of your feet, keeping your knees wide and aligned with your shoulders. Gently pull your feet downward while engaging your pelvic floor. Hold for 5-10 breaths.
9) Closing Meditation and Gratitude Practice
Finally, extend your legs and lie in a comfortable way. Close your eyes and let go of movement, breath, and thoughts. Just be, right here, right now. Find, Savanasana.
Benefits of Yoga for Pelvic Floor Strength and Function
Improved Body Awareness
Yoga encourages mindfulness and a deeper connection to your body. This increased awareness can help you better understand and engage your pelvic floor muscles, making it easier to target and strengthen them through specific poses and exercises.
Increased Strength and Flexibility
Regular yoga practice can improve both the strength and flexibility of your pelvic floor muscles. This combination is essential for maintaining healthy pelvic floor function and preventing issues such as incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.
Reduced Stress and Tension
Yoga is known for its stress-reducing benefits, and this extends to your pelvic floor as well. The practice can help release tension in the muscles surrounding the pelvis, which can alleviate pelvic pain and improve overall function.
Enhanced Core Stability
By integrating yoga poses that target the pelvic floor, you'll also be engaging and strengthening your entire core. A strong core leads to better balance, improved posture, and reduced back pain, which all contribute to overall health and well-being.
Support for Pregnancy and Postpartum Recovery
For women who are pregnant or have recently given birth, yoga can be particularly beneficial for pelvic floor health. Gentle, targeted poses can help support the growing baby during pregnancy, while postpartum practice can aid in recovery and rebuilding strength in the pelvic floor muscles.
Improved Sexual Function
As mentioned earlier, a strong and healthy pelvic floor can enhance sexual function for both men and women. Through regular yoga practice, you can increase sensitivity, improve sexual performance, and experience greater satisfaction.
A Holistic Approach to Health
Yoga offers a holistic approach to well-being, addressing not just the physical aspects of health but also mental, emotional, and spiritual components. By integrating yoga into your pelvic floor routine, you're nurturing your entire being, leading to a more balanced and fulfilling life.
Enhance Your Yoga for Pelvic Floor Experience with Asivana
I'd like to share some exciting ways to enhance your practice even further using Asivana Yoga's premium eco-friendly products. As a yoga teacher, I wholeheartedly believe in the power of using the right tools to support and elevate your practice.
Asivana Yoga's EcoBlock Cork Yoga Block
The EcoBlock Cork Yoga Block is a fantastic accessory for your pelvic floor practice. It provides stability, support, and alignment, allowing you to safely explore and deepen your poses. This high-quality cork yoga block is sustainable, non-toxic, and slip-resistant – perfect for helping you engage your pelvic floor muscles and finding balance.
Some ways to use the EcoBlock in your pelvic floor practice include:
- Placing it beneath your sacrum in Bridge Pose for extra support
- Using it to rest your forehead in Child's Pose if it doesn't comfortably reach the mat
Asivana Yoga's Cork Yoga Mat
A stable and comfortable foundation is essential for any yoga practice, and the Cork Yoga Mat from Asivana is the perfect choice. Its cork surface offers excellent grip and is naturally antimicrobial, making it an eco-friendly and hygienic option for your practice. The 5mm natural rubber base provides excellent cushioning, ensuring comfort and support in all your pelvic floor poses.
By choosing Asivana Yoga products, you're not only investing in your own practice but also supporting a company that values sustainability, high-quality materials, and the wellbeing of our planet.
As we wrap up our exploration of yoga for pelvic floor health, I encourage you to visit the Asivana Yoga Company shop and explore the range of products designed to support and enhance your practice. With the right tools and dedication, you can experience the incredible benefits of yoga for pelvic floor health.
Wishing you a strong and balanced practice,