Introduction to Pelvic Health YogaThe Connected Yoga Teacher Live Show: Episode 9
Today on The Connected Yoga Teacher live show, Shannon talks about the why pelvic health is such an important topic for everyone and how yoga teachers can really help students to maintain and improve pelvic health by sharing information along with asana and pranayama practices.
There is a video (to the left) and the show notes and links are here. Feel free to post comments or questions below.
To register or find out more about on the 4-week Pelvic Health for Yoga Teachers online course — click the link below.
Importance of Pelvic Health Yoga
Our everyday movements and bodily functions depend so much on our pelvic health. Pelvic health might not be a topic that you have heard a lot about or discussed, but after reading this you will see why I am so passionate about having it included in all yoga classes.
Women who have had children, who are aging or who are exercising — it is not normal to be leaking urine. It is common. 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men — will have incontinence issues. The numbers may actually be much higher than we know, as many people isolate themselves and don’t reach out for help with incontinence.
So many people suffer in silence with pelvic health issues, (there is a full list of examples below). With an increase in awareness and knowledge and a visit with a pelvic floor physiotherapist – many of these issues are resolved.
What is a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist?
Pelvic floor physiotherapists are trained to help patients with pelvic health challenges. These can affect both your physical health and emotional well-being. Some of the most common ones are:
- Urinary urgency/frequency
- Incontinence, both urinary and fecal
- Painful intercourse and sexual dysfunction
- Interstitial cystitis: bladder pain syndrome (BPS)
- Chronic prostatitis: inflammation of the prostate
- Issues with pregnancy or postpartum recovery
- Scar tissue
- Prolapse of the bladder, bowel or uterus
- Back pain
- Diastasis of the rectus abdominus: separation of the abdominal muscles
A large part of the work that pelvic floor physiotherapists do is education around pelvic health. This is where yoga teachers can work well with pelvic floor physiotherapists. You can help to bring information, movements and breath practices into your yoga classes that help to improve pelvic health.
For example — we have heard how important the core is, but this isn’t the 6-pack. The true core is also referred to as the core four.
The Core Four Consists of The:
- Diaphragm, the dome-shaped muscle attached to the base of the ribs which is vital for breathing.
- Transverse Abdominus Muscles – the muscles in the abdomen running side to side. They form a corset around your midsection and are activated almost anytime a limb moves. (important for back health and stability, and for birthing babies)
- Multifidus Muscle – a series of muscles attached to the spinal column.( we may experience back and pelvic pain when these are weak)
- Pelvic Floor (see below)
What is The Pelvic Floor?
We often associate the pelvic floor with women’s health. But everyone has a pelvic floor, including men.
The pelvic floor is made up of muscles, nerves, tendons, blood vessels, ligaments and connective tissue. There are actually three layers of muscles. They stretch from the pubic bone to the tailbone and reach out to the bony parts of the pelvis that you sit on (the ischial tuberosities or sitz bones).
While often ignored, the pelvic floor does a lot for your health.
It supports the bladder, bowel and, in women, the uterus. It helps to hold in urine and feces and then releases them when you are ready. It stabilizes your back and pelvic girdle, and it assists in moving blood and lymph back to the center of your body.
The pelvic floor also plays a large role in your sexual health.
5 ‘S’s of the Pelvic Floor
- Stabalize – spine and pelvis
- Support – internal organs
- Sphincteric – maintains continence
- Sexual Role – in men and women
- Sump – Pump – lymphatic system and circulation
Improving Pelvic Health With Yoga
Helping yoga students to improve and maintain pelvic health has a lot to do with being mindful and aware of how we move. Focusing also on using the ‘Core Four’ to support those movements. Here are some examples of how yoga teachers can bring pelvic health awareness into class:
- Talk about posture, showing students how to maintain a natural curve in the low back and a neutral pelvis while sitting or standing.
- Encourage students to move around and take frequent breaks when sitting or standing for long periods.
- Avoid high-impact activities and certain ‘core’ work if students are experiencing pelvic floor issues, such as incontinence.
- Talk about how the inner unit works together — ‘The Knack,’ an isometric contraction of the abdominal muscles, the pelvic floor and the back muscles before lifting or coughing.
- If squatting is okay for students (learn the contraindications and modifications here) – talk to them about doing 1-3 minutes per day.
- Teach breath practices that improve pelvic floor awareness and overall pelvic health (Jelly Fish Breath or the Rib Cage Breath).
- Talk to students about seeing a pelvic floor physiotherapist, especially if experiencing any pelvic health challenges.
Jelly Fish Breath
Here is a video I shared – talking more about the pelvic floor and how it is important to have it relaxing and contracting, naturally, with the breath. The Jelly Fish Breath is a great way to do this. This breath is also safe to do during and after pregnancy.
- Sit comfortably on an exercise ball or firm cushion with your sitz bones and perineum (the area between the vaginal opening and anus) in contact with the ball/cushion. Make sure your spine is aligned so that you have a natural low back curve.
- Close your eyes and imagine a jellyfish floating gently down to the bottom of the ocean as you inhale. Notice how it opens wide and relaxes just as your pelvic floor relaxes, your ribs expand, and your diaphragm relaxes down.
- With each exhale, visualize the jelly fish gently lifting up and closing, just as your pelvic floor and diaphragm lift and the ribs go back to neutral.