Apr 26

Pilates for Pelvic Floor Strength

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Pilates for Pelvic Floor Strength

Pilates is often a go to form of exercise when it comes to strengthening the pelvic floor. However, if you are suffering from pelvic floor dysfunction, it is important to make sure you go to a teacher who specialises in this area.

Specialist teachers

Firstly, they will screen you fully and possibly refer you on to a Pelvic Health Physio. This is really crucial if you are experiencing any symptoms in your pelvic floor. Secondly, they will not just focus on the strength of the pelvic floor. They will also understand that the function of the pelvic floor is key so they will work on releasing it as much as strengthening it (if not more). Finally, they will have a level of understanding of how to improve your pelvic floor health that isn’t covered in most Pilates training. In most Pilates trainings, the level of detail taught around pelvic floor dysfunction is simply not enough for you to know that your pelvic floor is benefitting from your Pilates classes.

Intra-abdominal Pressure

All movement (including the movement of the breath) creates a level of Intra-Abdominal Pressure (IAP). When we move dynamically or add a lot of load to our body, it becomes harder to control the IAP. This is why people often talk about postnatal people avoiding sit ups. When you do a sit up it creates a reasonable high level of IAP and most postnatal people would not be able to control this.

It is also key to understand that actually a lot of “non-postnatal”people also can’t control the IAP created by a sit up. And remember our saying “once postnatal, always postnatal” means that even if your baby is ten years old your core may still be recovering. When you can’t control the IAP, it causes your abdominals to push outwards and your pelvic floor to bear down. If you are doing abdominal exercises and your abdominal muscles are ‘doming’ you are potentially aggravating pelvic floor dysfunction. This is true however old your “baby” is.

How can Pilates help?

Pilates is a wonderful method for the whole body. However, the majority of the classical work involves a lot of ‘sit up’ type actions, as well as using the legs to create a heavy load for the abdominals. When doing Pilates for pelvic floor health, there are some key points to be aware of.

  • Breathing matters. How your breath moves through your torso is absolutely crucial when it comes to your core function. If your breathing patterns are dysfunctional and you are belly breathing or chest breathing, you may struggle to make significant changes to pelvic floor function.
Exercise suggestion

Wrap a dressing gown cord around your ribcage for feedback. Try to breathe into the whole of your ribcage. Think of a 360 degree breath and notice the areas that you find more difficult to connect with.

  • You need to release as well as strengthen. You cannot effectively strengthen a muscle that is locked and tight. Make sure you have some movement in your pelvic floor before you try to strengthen it.
Exercise suggestion

On all 4s. Inhale to internally rotate one thigh bone. Exhale to bring it back to centre. Repeat 10 times on each leg.

  • You shouldn’t need to consciously contract your pelvic floor the whole time. A conscious contraction (one that you think about) can be a really useful tool in rebuilding strength in the pelvic floor. But we want to teach our pelvic floor to support us unconsciously too. We can use the breath to do this. We want our pelvic floor to be reflexive and reactive. It should respond to the movement we are doing and work hard when it needs to but relax when it doesn’t need to.
Exercise suggestion

Squat – Standing with your feet in parallel slightly wider than hip distance apart, inhale to bend your knees and squat down, exhale to push up again. On the inhale your sit bones will widen and gently stretch your pelvic floor. On the exhale they will draw together and your pelvic floor will contract.

Centred Mums Pilates classes for Pelvic Floor Health

Our Pilates classes for pelvic floor health are always here for you to gain more understanding and help you to retrain your pelvic floor. You may be interested in Postnatal Pilates, Centred Pilates or Your Core Matters online programme.