by Megan Peterson
For a variety of personal, cultural, and social reasons, the pelvis and pelvic floor can be mysterious for a lot of people. At its simplest, the pelvic floor helps us go to the bathroom, creates core stability, and in a female body, holds in organs. After giving birth, a lot of people experience some sort of imbalance or dysfunction in their pelvic floor such as trouble holding in urine, overactive bladder, fecal incontinence, or pelvic organ prolapse. It is normal to experience a shift in how the pelvic floor functions in the postpartum period. Since every body is unique and every birth is also unique, healing looks different for everyone.
It is common for doctors to clear patients for exercise and sex at their 6-week check up, even while the patient is still experiencing symptoms of imbalance. Although pelvic floor imbalance and dysfunction symptoms (such as urinary issues, spasms in the pelvis, or low back pain) are very common after having a baby, you do not have to live with them forever. Discomfort or pain in the pelvic region does not have to be your “new normal.”
If symptoms are getting in the way of living the life you want to live, seeking outside support might be necessary. A couple effective approaches to heal pelvic floor imbalance and dysfunction are Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy and Pelvic Floor Yoga™. Through education, biofeedback training, and behavior modification, PT can be a very effective way to rehabilitate the pelvic floor muscles with hands on support as well as physical practices and exercises.
Pelvic Floor Yoga™ is a yoga practice that brings awareness and greater understanding of the pelvic floor, the core and it’s many muscles, breathing, and how it all relates to the whole body.
Created by Leslie Howard, Pelvic Floor Yoga™ is an approach to yoga that can help people who may be having a variety of symptoms with their pelvic floor. Pelvic Floor Yoga™ includes breath practices, and yoga postures to bring more understanding to this part of the body. Like any other muscle in the body, the goal is to be able to contract and fully release the muscles that weave through our pelvis. Range of movement is an indicator of muscle and joint health, and the pelvis is no exception. Pelvic Floor Yoga™ is a practice that can help an individual strengthen and tone the pelvic floor when needed, as well as create length and space when there is tension. It can be a tool to help people return to the movement practices that bring them joy and vitality.
Lauren, like many new moms, experienced pelvic discomfort after giving birth. Despite walking and gentle, slow flow yoga, she was left feeling discouraged and tight. Then she discovered Pelvic Floor Yoga™. “The sessions helped me focus on specific areas in a gentle way to bring awareness and re-engage,” states Lauren. “I was surprised at how bringing attention to the pelvic floor and core with such simple movements helped relax and strengthen at the same time. I feel much more connected to my body.”
If you are interested in learning Pelvic Floor Yoga™, and you are experiencing symptoms, it is recommended that you see your primary care provider before beginning this practice. PFY can help with postural understanding and awareness and can improve general posture. It can be a perfect way to integrate movement postpartum and is a helpful compliment to pelvic floor physical therapy as well. During a session, the instructor may cover the anatomy of breathing, how to engage the core reflexively, and provide simple self-care daily routines. Students receive a full write up of what was covered, with postures and cues that allow them to practice on their own between sessions. In just two or three sessions, some folks gain the ability to breathe with more ease, go from feeling numb in the pelvis to feeling sensation, and remember how to engage the core without bracing or feeling rigid. With continued practice, students experience greater confidence and connection with the function of their pelvic floor, including a decrease in leakage and pelvic pain.
Megan Peterson is a certified I-AYT Yoga Therapist, Pelvic Floor Yoga™ teacher, birth and postpartum doula and the co-creator of Mindful Nest Childbirth Education in Portland, OR. She has supported folks with such issues as incontinence, pain in the pelvis or low back, genital pain, and other ailments. She is passionate about educating others on the wonders and power that lies in the pelvis.
Learn more at www.thetenderevolution.com