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The Importance of the Pelvic Floor and its Significance in Pilates

OK deep breath!!! She’s mentioning pelvic floor- again!! I see the expressions change so here’s a little info and a visual of the muscles to help you connect!!

The floor of the pelvis (the base of our “core muscles”) is made up of a set of muscles and tissues that play an extremely important role in both the Male and Female body.

Stretching from the tailbone to the pubic bone, the muscles in the pelvic floor are there to support the bladder and bowel as well as the sexual /reproductive functions of the body. Men and women with incontinence (fecal and urinary) will find pelvic floor muscle training may help in getting over this problem. For women, after childbirth and all that stretching from the extra weight of carrying your baby, it’s important to tighten up those muscles again and keep your pelvic floor muscles strong. Exercise will enable this and give them the attention they need in order to remain functional. Did I also mention that a strong pelvic floor can increase sexual sensation for both sexes? Win Win!

In relation to practicing Pilates, an activity that focuses heavily on abdominal exercises, it’s imperative to ensure that your pelvic floor muscles are strong enough to counteract the pressure that abdominal muscles place on the pelvic floor. Positions that involve lying on your back and lifting your legs put your pelvic floor under stress unless the muscles are strong enough to counteract this pressure.

Pilates is great for doing this but it’s hard for Pilates instructors to monitor the movement of pelvic floor muscles as they’re internal. Finding and training these muscles is a challenge in itself but there are a number of exercises that can help you to connect using your Pelvic Floor to our exercises in our Pilates class. So, are you ready?!

Looking firstly at the diagram see where you pelvic muscles are (they run like a hammock from the base of your spine to your pubic bone)- this is the same for both men and women- the only difference is that ladies have 3 passages instead of 2- we were gifted!

Pelvic floor muscles in females

Pelvic floor muscles in women

Pelvic floor muscles in males

Pelvic floor muscles in men

Lay on your back with your knees bent and your arms relaxed by your side. Closing your eyes may help you visualise where your pelvic floor muscles are and if you breathe as we do in class by inhaling into the back of your ribcage whilst keeping your legs and glutes completely relaxed, you should be able to see if you can lift your pelvic floor muscles in isolation. Starting at your back passage, you can do this by imagining you’re holding in wind, gently lifting the muscles and release. Coming to your front passage, imagine you’re holding in urine ( please don’t do this mid flow when you’re really having a wee) gently lift and release. Then coming to your middle passage (Gents.. your testicles!), lift and squeeze in the middle and again gently release.

In our exercises in class, we bring all 2/3 passages together lifting at the back and then front lift and squeeze in the middle , making sure we completely relax the muscles as we release. In Pilates, by contracting our pelvic floor when we exhale, we give our strong core a connection to move from. When we exhale, our diaphragm contracts, our abdominals move gently towards the spine and that triggers our multifidus, a set of muscles that protect our spine. Our pelvic floor is drawing up so our core cyclinder is connected and we are good to go! Pelvic floor engaged and protected!

It is also important to be able to work our pelvic floor muscles quickly to help them react to sudden stresses like laughing, coughing or sneezing that can put pressure on your bladder. So, we must contract the muscles quickly by drawing up through your pelvic floor for a second and then releasing the muscles. You can do this by imagining your pelvic floor is a light switch going on and off.

Hopefully you have managed to feel the difference between isolating these muscles so next time in class when I say we are going to draw up through our pelvic floor on our out breathe I’ll get a little smile of each of you – because you’ve got this!

Phew!!!!! Sweat over and breathe!! -deeply!!


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