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How To Correctly Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor

Strengthening your pelvic floor is paramount for pregnant women, but unfortunately there are not a lot of detailed instructions on how to do it correctly. As co-founder of Drishti Yoga Teacher Training and being a prenatal yoga expert, I often provide women with advice on how to locate these muscles and practice kegels or Mula Bandha effectively. 

Why is it important? A strong pelvic floor is crucial for women as the weight of the growing baby bears downward on the muscles. If the muscles are weak, they may not be able support the weight of the uterus or the bladder, which could lead to problems like incontinence and prolapse. It is also helpful during labor and delivery to have the ability to control the muscles and, in particular, relax them in the second stage of delivery. Doing these exercises daily will also help with recovery and healing if the muscles tear during labor.

Step 1: Locating the Muscles

It is often taught to locate the muscles by imagining that you are stopping the flow of urine. While this may not be totally wrong, it is not completely accurate either. The muscles in the urethra (front) and sphincter (back) are much stronger than the perineum muscles because of their daily use.  With these muscles being more active they may overpower the muscles in the middle.

Instead, try to identify the muscles in the middle by focusing on them and use the urethra and anus only to support the lift. It is helpful to imagine the pelvic floor as a hammock. During the contraction of the muscles, the center of the hammock is lifted in and up and supported by the front and back.

Step 2: Optimal Yoga Positions

  • Position 1:
    • Sit in Malasana or Squat pose on stacked Yoga blocks, a bolster or stacked pillows with the feet flat on the floor and the knees open and wide. Bring the hands into prayer at the center of the chest or allow the forearms to rest on the thighs. Root the tailbone down and reach the crown of the head upward to keep length in the spine.
  • Position 2:
    • Stand in Yoga pose Warrior II. Step the feet wide with the front toes pointing straight ahead and the back foot at a 45-degree angle. Bend the knee of the front leg and keeping knee stacked on top of the ankle, work the thigh parallel to the floor while the back leg stays straight. Extend the arms out in a T shape keeping the front arm the same height as the back arm.   

Step 3: Method of Contracting Muscles

  • On the inhale allow the pelvic floor to be in a relaxed state, as you exhale draw the center of the “hammock” in and up supported by the urethra and sphincter muscles. Inhale again and release the muscles, allowing them to spread and relax. On the exhale, squeeze the center in and up. Repeat 10 to 20 times

  • Tip: To increase the intensity hold the contraction on the exhale for 10 counts while breathing in and out normally.

    It may take time to really identify the correct muscles, so it is important to keep practicing. The great thing about these exercises is that you can do them anytime and anywhere! Try a cycle of them while washing dishes or sitting in traffic or waiting for the subway. It is also important to keep up with these exercises post labor to repair and heal the pelvic floor after birth.

    Sarah Walsh

    Sarah Walsh teaches Prenatal Yoga and Prenatal Fit classes at Sangha Yoga Shala in Williamsburg, New York as well as privately in Manhattan. She also leads Yoga Teacher Trainings around the world with a module on prenatal yoga with her school Drishti Yoga Teacher Training. Join her on her next Yoga Training in Italy or Costa Rica!

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