Thursday, August 18, 2011

The elusive Pelvic Floor

So, from the classes I've taught and conversations I've had with numerous people, the pelvic floor is almost forgotten..or rather perhaps neglected.

Having tried using cues to get students to engage their pelvic floor, I often see perplexed and confused expressions that could be interpreted as "hmm..... what on earth is that that we are engaging...", or
"mmm... i can't feel anything do I draw my sitz bones together..?"

So, as a continuation from my earlier post on workshops which I attended at the Fletcher Pilates Conference, today's topic will be the workshop titled "Pelvic Power" by Amanda Tvedt (Director of Physical Therapy, Athlon).

So, some pointers which Amanda has kindly shared:

How Do I Find my Pelvic Floor?
-> First, find the Transverse Abdominal (TA)
-> Place your finger tips just inside your ASIS (commonly known as 'hip bones')
-> Perform the exercise - take an inhale and on the exhale work with the cue: pull your belly button in toward your spine
-> Then using the cue: attempt to pull the ASIS away from each other (using the same breathing technique, i.e. focus on the cue on the exhale)
-> Keep your fingers pressing inside the ASIS
[FYI, this engages your TA and internal obliques. TA is engaged up to 5-10% and internal obliques will kick in then.]
-> Contract your pelvic floor like you are closing the elevator doors (i.e. your sitz bones are the elevator doors) and pull the muscles up as though you are sending the elevator up toward your head

Do relax the muscles on the inhale and then engage the muscles on the exhale. It is important to feel the relaxation of the pelvic floor as well and is not always in an "engaged" mode.

What's the Big Deal of this Pelvic Floor you may ask
It does a whole lot of deal for you!
  • Maintains continence during lifting, nose blowing, laughing, coughing, sneezing
  • Urethral and rectal closing
  • Provides mechanical support to the spine and pelvis - sacroiliac stability and intra-abdominal pressure
  • Maintaining posture
One of the most common pelvic floor dysfunctions is Stress Incontinence associated with a weakened pelvic floor. This means there's leakage with coughing, sneezing, exercise, laughing, movements that put pressure on the bladder.

Some others include:
- Urge Incontinence (aka over-active bladder)
- Overflow Incontinence (leakage because the bladder cannot empty completely)

Do also note the typical bladder irritants:
Certain acidic fruits - oranges, grapefruits, lemons and limes, and
Fruit juices, spicy foods, tomato-based products, carbonated drinks, artificial sweeteners, corn syrup, sugar, chocolate, coffee and tea

So those of you who find yourselves having symptoms of incontinence of sorts may want to avoid the items listed above!

On a final note, the we learn to engage the TA as well because they are linked and connect to the pelvic floor too. The pelvic floor is the base of the core for the fact of the matter actually.
Also, while Pilates training focuses on core strength, it trains the body as an integrated whole - one of the benefits of Pilates.

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Movement should be approached like life - with enthusiasm, joy and gratitude – for movement is life and life is movement, and we get out of it what we put into it.”

~ Ron Fletcher

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