When I realised that my pelvic floor just wasn’t cutting the mustard anymore, I went to the doctor for some help. My problem was frequent trips to the toilet, symptoms I’d suffered with for a while. I started to develop a habit of going to the toilet more often than I actually needed it. I didn’t want to be caught short so made sure I always went – just in case.
Well that got a little bit worse after the birth of my son. Straight after birth I realised that I couldn’t even feel my pelvic floor. The midwifes and doctors just told me to do my Kegels and said it will eventually get stronger. That was it. I was sent on my way with my new baby and instructions just to keep squeezing. So I did. But I became a little bit paranoid about whether I needed a wee or not. So I found myself going to the toilet more often than before. I’d lost all mental connection with my pelvic floor and bladder and lost the ability to tell whether I genuinely need the loo or not. I’d totally lost trust in my body.
So that’s how it was. I also went to see a continence nurse during this time and she sent me away with the same prescription: to do my Kegels. So I did. Again.
Kegels didn’t work for me
But guess what? They improved the strength of my pelvic floor but I still suffered with frequency of toilet trips. It was worse when I was nervous or stressed, which happened when I didn’t know where the toilet was. So it just became a vicious circle of worrying, which made it worse.
So I was feeling a little bit lost as to what to do next. I knew it wasn’t normal to be going to the toilet such a lot and I really didn’t want to feel like this forever.
So I took out my computer, opened a new browser and began Googling. And that’s when I discovered a teaching training program called Your Pelvic Matters – created by pre and post natal expert Claire Mockridge. The programme sounded great and I thought: as I’m already a yoga teacher it would be something I can incorporate into my own teaching as well as improving my own symptoms while I’m studying – it was a win, win. I signed up and started learning.
Here’s what I’ve learned
When it comes to pelvic floor health you need to take a whole body approach. It’s not enough to isolate this muscle (your pelvic floor) and simply contract it up a few times a day (Kegels). This is a bit like wanting a six-pack and just doing sit ups every day but doing no other exercise and eating lots of burgers! It’s just not going to work. What you’d actually do if you wanted a six pack would be to take up an exercise program for your whole body and start eating healthily.
The pelvic floor muscle needs the exact same approach. You need to work on stretching and strengthening all of the body’s muscles as they all impact on how well the pelvic floor muscle works. And it’s not even just about exercise, the shoes and clothes we wear affect the function of your pelvic floor too.
My light bulb moment!
I couldn’t believe it! Everything I was learning made so much sense and I started to practice the exercises as well as take on board the lifestyle tips. I started to notice a difference. I realised that my hamstrings were incredibly tight and also that my glutes (bum muscles) were under developed. All of these factors were affecting how well my pelvic floor did its job.
Armed with all of this new information I booked myself in to see a women’s health physio – just to get a proper assessment of what was going on. Even though the exercises were helping, I still had days when my symptoms were bad. What I discovered was that my pelvic floor was strong (yippee!!) but overactive! So basically it was working too much and I needed to learn how to relax more. That reflected my life externally. I’ve always struggled to be still and relax. So learning to breath well and continue with my yoga was the final piece of the jigsaw. My trust in my body was restored again.
So back to the point. How can YOU tackle your pelvic floor problems?
Firstly, know that you need a full body approach. It’s not just one exercise to cure all of your pelvic floor problems.
Doctors and nurses know a lot of stuff but they don’t have all of the answers. Especially when it comes to pelvic floor health. If you’re not seeing any improvements with doing Kegel exercises then book yourself an appointment with a women’s health physio. This was so important for me because I learned exactly what the state of play was.
Start to walk more. Walking is tremendously important for the function of your pelvic floor and while you’re doing that consider what shoes you’re wearing too. The heels on your shoes will affect the alignment of your pelvis and therefore affect your pelvic floor. Barefoot shoes are definitely the best switch I’ve made and I’ve also found that I don’t suffer with knee pain anymore since I made the switch.
Yoga for your pelvic floor
The best thing I’ve done is to continue practicing yoga but with a new focus on strength and mobility rather than striving for flexibility and achieving the ultimate pose. I also spend a lot of time on my breathing practice. Instead of breathing into the belly (which is a common yoga cue) I’ve relearned to expand the rib cage, breathing into the lungs. I also find that breathing and yoga help me to manage anxiety, which was the main cause of my pelvic floor problems. When I feel tense, so does my pelvic floor. So as you can see, it really is whole body approach.
If you’ve ever been to one of my yoga classes you may have noticed some non yoga moves included too. Whether your pelvic floor is a problem or not, it’s just good sense to ensure your body works well. So this approach is always included in my classes. So next time we focus on our feet and try lifting the big toes – know that you’re helping your pelvic floor!
I’ve created a FREE 5 days to pelvic floor happiness mini course to get you started on thinking about your own pelvic floor.
The course is all online via email, delivered over 5 days. You’ll receive one exercise each day to help you to tune in to your body and get it moving.