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ONEYOGAHOUSE

By: Cara Hutto

You’ve probably heard the myriad benefits of kegels, exercises that involve contracting and relaxing the pelvic floor muscles repeatedly over a period of time. Kegels, alongside other exercises like bridges and squats, can help strengthen the pelvic floor and prevent muscle weakness.

While strengthening exercises like these are beneficial for some people, they may not be suitable for everyone, especially those with a tight or overactive pelvic floor. In some cases, doing kegels when the pelvic floor muscles are already tight can lead to further tension and worsen symptoms, such as pelvic pain and discomfort.

In cases of tight pelvic floor muscles, certain yoga poses, relaxation techniques, and stretching exercises can help release pelvic floor tension and restore normal muscle function.

Relaxing the pelvic floor through yoga can help with:

Alleviation of pelvic pain

Tight or overactive pelvic floor muscles can contribute to pelvic pain conditions such as pelvic floor dysfunction, pelvic floor muscle spasms, or pelvic floor myalgia. Gentle stretching can help relax these muscles, alleviate discomfort, and improve overall pelvic floor function.

Urinary or bowel incontinence management

Tight or tense pelvic floor muscles can lead to urinary urgency, frequency, hesitancy, constipation, or incomplete emptying. Pelvic floor yoga techniques can improve coordination by teaching the muscles to release and relax when appropriate, leading to better bladder and bowel function.

Pregnancy and childbirth preparation

During pregnancy, the pelvic floor undergoes significant changes to prepare for the birth of a baby. Yoga can help maintain flexibility in the pelvic floor muscles which can ease some discomfort during labor and delivery.

Postpartum support

After childbirth, the pelvic floor muscles may be strained. Yoga can be part of the postpartum rehabilitation process to help restore flexibility and function to the pelvic floor. Certain stretches can reduce pelvic floor dysfunction symptoms such as urinary incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse.

If you suspect you have a tight pelvic floor or if you experience symptoms such as pelvic pain, urinary urgency or frequency, constipation, or pain during intercourse, it’s essential to consult a healthcare provider, such as a pelvic floor physical therapist or a urologist, for proper evaluation and guidance. A professional can provide personalized recommendations tailored to your specific needs and help you address any underlying issues contributing to your symptoms.

Here are seven yoga poses that can help stretch the pelvic floor muscles and relieve tension. Remember to breathe deeply and listen to your body while practicing these poses.

1. Butterfly stretch (Baddha Konasana)

The butterfly stretch targets the inner thighs, groin, and hips, helping to improve flexibility and relieve tension in the pelvic region. Sit up straight with a tall spine or lay on your back, bend your knees and bring the soles of your feet together, allowing your knees to drop out to the sides. Keep your feet close to your pelvis and breathe deeply as you allow the hips to open gradually. You can use props such as blocks, blankets, or pillows underneath your knees for support.

2. Wide-legged child’s pose (Prasarita Balasana)

Wide-legged child’s pose is a gentle stretch for the spine, hips, groin, and thighs. The pose is often used as a resting pose during yoga sequences, especially after more intense or challenging poses, to allow the body to relax and integrate the benefits of the practice.

Begin in a kneeling position, with your knees hip-width apart. From there, spread your knees apart wider than your hips, allowing your big toes to touch behind you. Slowly lower your torso down toward the mat, extending your arms out in front of you and resting your palms and forehead on the mat. You can place blocks under your hands, a folded blanket underneath your knees, or between your calves and hamstrings for support. A bolster can also be placed under your belly and chest to bring the floor up for additional support. Try to relax your entire body into the pose, allowing your chest to sink toward the floor and your hips to soften.

3. Supported bridge pose (Setu Bandhasana)

Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart. Place a yoga block underneath your sacrum (the triangular fused bony area between your lumbar spine and tailbone). The block should be positioned on a setting that feels good in your body. Make any necessary adjustments so your sacrum and lower back feels gently lifted, and extend your arms alongside your body. Allow your hips to soften and release any tension in your pelvis and lower back.

4. Happy Baby Pose (Ananda Balasana)

This pose targets the inner thighs and groin, promoting relaxation in the pelvic floor muscles. It’s often practiced towards the end of a yoga session to unwind and prepare the body for relaxation or meditation.

Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Draw your knees toward your chest, bringing your knees wider than your torso. Grasp the outer edges of your feet with your hands and flex your feet so the soles of your feet face upward. Gently pull down on your feet with your hands, using the strength of your arms to guide your knees toward your armpits and thighs towards your ribcage. Broaden your collarbones and lengthen your tailbone on the mat as you press and massage your sacrum down.

5. Reclined pigeon (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)

Begin by lying flat on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Cross your right ankle over your left thigh, just above the knee, forming a figure-four shape with your legs.

Flex your right foot and reach your right hand through the space between your legs to clasp your hands behind your left shin. You can also hold onto your left hamstrings with both hands. Keeping your head and shoulders relaxed on the mat, gently press your right knee away from your body with your right elbow, feeling a stretch in your groin, right outer hip, and glute. Repeat on the left side.

6. Wide-angle forward bend (Upavistha Konasana)

This pose provides a deep stretch for the inner thighs, groins, and hamstrings, while also stimulating the abdominal organs and promoting relaxation. Sit on your mat and open your legs out to the sides, forming a wide “V” shape. Flex your feet and engage your thigh muscles to protect your knees and hamstrings. Lengthening through the crown of your head, hinge forward at your hips, keeping your spine long and leading with your chest. Only go as far forward as feels comfortable, and avoid rounding your back or collapsing your chest. You can place your hands on the floor beside your hips for support, or, if it feels accessible, you can walk your hands forward. Props can be used to support the head and front body.

7. Cat-cow pose (Marjaryasana-Bitilasana)

Start on your hands and knees in a tabletop, or quadruped, position with your wrists directly under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. As you inhale, arch your back and lift your chest toward the ceiling, allowing your belly to soften down toward the floor for cow pose. Shift your gaze toward the ceiling, drawing your shoulder blades down your back. For cat pose, exhale as you tuck your tailbone, rounding your spine upward, tucking your chin toward your chest and drawing your belly button toward your spine. Flow smoothly between cat and cow, coordinating each movement with your breath. This dynamic sequence between arching and rounding the spine can help to release tension in the pelvic floor while also increasing flexibility in the spine.

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