Words: Nicci Talbot
I’ve been reading up on all things pelvic-related this week for an ebook I’m writing on pelvic toning. I’m reviewing several books and products and doing some fitness training and Well Woman yoga to target the core body, so hopefully it will be a useful and fun book to read. I know I need to do my Kegels regularly if I want to avoid peeing my pants when I’m running, and for better sex and orgasms but most of the time I just can’t be fagged. I find Kegels boring and tend to do them now and again rather than as an integral part of my fitness routine. They are something I *should* be doing – 200-a-day in addition to the 5-a-day healthy eating – and the implication is that you will be crap in bed if you don’t have a tight pussy. Well, who has time for 200 Kegels a day?
So, here’s a link to the Pelvic Floor Party: Kegels are NOT invited post on Sweaty Mama’s blog, which is a revelation and has totally changed my approach to pelvic fitness. SM interviewed Katy Bowman, a biomechanist and director of the Restorative Exercise Institute to talk about the importance of Kegels and how best to tone up down there. I recommend reading the posts in full as they are fascinating (the comments equally so) but here’s a summary of the key points:
- It’s about quality not quantity. Don’t get hung up on the notion that you need to do 200 Kegels a day to feel a difference in your body tone. Do them in moderation and combine with other core strengthening exercises for the glutes, calves, hamstrings and lower back. Katy says if the PC muscle is too tight it cannot fully relax and won’t function effectively. Other muscles need to be strong and posture good to support the PF otherwise women are at risk of PFD (pelvic function disorder).
- The best way to do your Kegels is to combine them with squatting. Squat deep three times a day and do 10 Kegels whilst you’re down there, tightening and releasing fully. I’ve tried it and the difference is remarkable. You can feel the upward pull. To quote Katy: “It is well documented that Western, modern-living women have much more difficult births than their less-modernized counterparts. During these times (mid 1800’s to the 1930’s) pelvic floor damage and baby-head smashing was a problem for “civilised women” but not the “tinkers” (Irish gypsies) or tribal-living women. The only differences in these groups turned out to be the size of the birthing space.”
She points out that these women have always squatted to bathroom and that it increases the size of the pelvis by activating the glutes, meaning less pressure on the PF during childbirth and less damage to the ligaments. Your butt muscles are essential for a strong core so work that booty. I squatted to give birth to Julieta as it felt the most natural and dynamic position. Your body instinctively knows which position to adopt and this resulted in a fast labour with no epidural, tearing or stitches.
- Learn how to relax your PF, which isn’t as easy as it sounds. A good way to do this says physical and yoga therapist Matthew J Taylor PT, PhD is to soften the tongue and exhale. “Sit feet flat on the floor, pelvic square on a chair, spine softly erect. Now, sensing the space between your sitting bones, gently begin to press your tongue against the back of your teeth and watch what happens to your PF as you increase the pressure, and then watch as you slowly release.”
It’s worth buying a Swiss exercise ball to use as alternative to your chair. I bought one from my local physiotherapist for a tenner and use it to improve my posture and stretch my back out when it gets tight (Julieta loves it too so hours of fun chasing it around the flat). Our bodies are designed to move regularly so sitting still for long periods at work will cause tightness and discomfort. I move around to write – on the bed, cross-legged on the floor, or standing every now and then if I feel I’m getting rigid.
If you’ve tried any of these pelvic toning products (Kegel8 Ultra, Gyneflex, Aquaflex, wooden dildos, and smart balls) or similar and want to share tips or a testimonial about what’s worked for you, email me and I can do a follow-up post. I see a PF workshop in the making here.
‘Down There For Women’ – Katy Bowman’s Aligned & Well series of DVD’s: key exercises for pelvic health, PFD, sexual dysfunction, menstrual cramps, and recovery post-childbirth.
Saving the Whole Woman by Christine Kent (natural alternatives to surgery for pelvic prolapse) – covers physiology, lifestyle changes, exercises, and an anti-inflammatory diet for PF health.