From this time on, I was determined this was not going to be my destiny. But how?
I have done the hours of research so you do not have to!
Over the last 10 years I have read all I can about pelvic floor function and watched numerous videos and talks. I have been to a pelvic floor physiotherapist, tried Alexander Technique, Cranial Osteopathy and even had a go with those insertable weights. I have gained a lot of knowledge, found some answers and ruled out many more suggested options.
I am still on my journey to perfect pelvic floor function, but I do believe I now have enough information and some of the tools to get me where I want to go.
Here is what I now know.
Let’s start with the facts
The pelvic floor muscles are a like a sling. They help to hold in place the organs of the pelvic area in both men and women. They run from your tailbone to your pubic bone and they connect from one hip to the other.
Now let’s consider the signs
These are those unpleasant things that may alert you to a weakened pelvic floor.
Leaking urine when coughing, laughing, sneezing, jumping, lifting, walking up stairs, running, exercising or simply for what seems like no reason at all
Accidentally passing wind – a menopause favorite
Stool stains on underwear – a great motivator at least!
Not being able to get to the toilet in time
Difficulty emptying the bladder or bowel
Varicose veins appearing on the testicles, penis, vagina or vulva
Hemorrhoids – joy of joys, not!
The question many people disagree on is, “can or should this area be exercised at all?”
One school of thought is that, like the diaphragm, these muscles work quietly in the background in a healthy functioning body and do not need any training. I tend to lean towards this belief but wonder if any of us in the modern world have a fully functioning, healthy body.
For the past few years I have been avidly following Katie Bowman, an American biomechanist whose recent book, Move your DNA, is a look at how we move. More importantly, perhaps, it is a look at how we are not moving in our modern lives.
Katie is quite damming of the old theories and the information given to women since the 1950s that centres on doing Kegel exercises. (I hope my GP is reading this bit!)
She can explain it far better than I can but only ever strengthening a single muscle repeatedly without ever stretching it seems highly unlikely to prove effective.
A lack of movement, shallow breathing, poor posture and positive heeled footwear are just a few of the things that could be affecting your pelvic floor function right now. With this modern day reality in mind I decided to look into the exercise option. Is there an exercise routine out there that can help me?
I liked Livia instantly: she was one of those relaxed and healthy looking individuals and what she said made a lot of sense to me. We set a date and Shine hosted its first Pelvic Floor Training course with myself and just one other pregnant client in attendance.
What happens at Pelvic Floor Training with Livia Nemeth?
For the curious here is how four week course went.
There will always be laughter in this type of course, there just has to be. Livia’s relaxed method of teaching brings out all sorts of stories and questions. Your case history and all personal information is provided privately and Livia communicates with each participant via email during the week.
The first week is all about the anus. After learning many new skills and lots of conversations around men and haemorrhoids, as they too need a strong pelvic floor, we finished off by learning how to blink our anus.
Just try saying that out loud and you’ll have an idea of how much laughing we did.
Shock! Horror! please stop showing me the scary prolapse photos.
This week we focussed on closing our vaginas. I learnt that mine seems to close like a pair of hair straightening irons. I’m happy with that.
The urethra: I’m not sure mine is fully awake but I am assured that with continued practice, it will come to the party.
We have been promised that, by the end of this class, we will be able to pull our anus one direction and our vagina in the opposite direction at the same time.
Ha! Impossible I had thought, but actually we both manage to do this fairly easily. Or could it be we are just imagining it? It does help to visualise what you are doing internally. I would say I am 99% sure I can do this now.
After each class Livia emails us a new exercise routine that we are instructed to do once a day. I can say now that I absolutely do know how to engage my pelvic floor, something I had failed to be confident in even after ten years of regular Pilates. I am not as disciplined as I should be but I am confident I am on the right path.
I still believe good posture and varied movement are the keys to a healthy functioning body, but until I have cracked that one, I now have the skills to keep me on the straight and narrow.
More importantly I am no longer fearful of the seemingly inevitable leakage issue that so many people experience. I know that this topic is just a tiny part of our health but, for me, it is a very central one, quite literally.
One other thing I noticed after each class was what seemed to be an improvement in my posture. My very core seemed to want to hold me up in a healthier stronger way. Was it the exercises, or was it just my new found connection to this very private and sometimes forgotten inner muscle group?
Check them out and let’s all keep laughing!