We tend to spend way too much time on our behinds, which does nothing for our pelvic floors and overall health. The pelvic floor is a set of muscles that work together with your back and abs to support your core. A weak (or overworked) pelvic floor can be surprisingly dangerous for your health; it can lead to poor bladder control, slower recovery after childbirth, and even dropped pelvic organs. Sitting for too long, routinely crossing just one leg over the other, playing a sport like soccer, or even bad posture can lead to a weak or imbalanced pelvic floor that Kegels alone can’t fix. This is where specific yoga poses can help both men and women rebuild their pelvic floor to reap the benefits, because improved bladder control, confidence, and a boost to the quality of your sex life is nothing to sneeze at.
The motion of moving in and out of chair pose is fantastic for stretching and strengthening your pelvic floor. Chair pose involves keeping your feet hip-width apart, sitting back into an invisible chair by engaging your core and lower half, and raising your arms above your head. Some people hold this pose for a minute or two, but a flow approach is much better at strengthening your pelvic floor: sit back, hold the pose for five seconds, lift back up into mountain pose, and repeat a few times to reap the benefits for your pelvic floor. If you’ve been sitting at work for a few hours, this is a great way to get the blood flowing and get a few funny looks from your coworkers (don’t worry, their pelvic floors are just jealous).
Warrior II is a powerhouse pose, allowing your full body to stretch, strengthen, and become engaged. The trick to making the Warrior II a pelvic floor pose is to use proper form: step one foot straight back (as far as you can) and tilt that foot at a 45-degree angle while keeping your front foot facing forward. Bend into your front knee (without letting your knee pass your toes), tuck in your tailbone, and raise your arms to be parallel to each leg. Gaze straight ahead and really ground into both feet to activate your thighs, glutes, and lower core. This grounding motion helps strengthen your pelvic floor like no other pose, and you get there by slowly engaging your lower half muscle by muscle. Plus, it makes you feel like a badass warrior, and we all could use more of that in our lives.
Stretching your pelvic floor is just as important as strengthening it, or else it can quickly become overworked and, counterintuitively, weaker. This pose is perfect for letting your entire body relax, including your pelvic floor, and you want to set aside 5-10 minutes to give your muscles time to truly let go of tension. It’s one of the easiest yoga poses (aside from corpse pose), and you can do it almost anywhere. To start, simply scoot up to a wall while laying on your back and let your legs rest against the wall at a 90-degree angle to the rest of your body. The trick is to convince your body to let go, and you’ll get there with rounds of deep breathing (not texting on your phone). Settle in, breathe deep, and feel the tension melt away from head to toe.
Part of strengthening the pelvic floor includes strengthening the glutes, which counterbalance your pelvic floor. The Locust pose is fantastic at targeting the glutes and core muscles without putting stress on your joints. Simply lay flat on your stomach with your arms at your sides and thighs pressed together. Inhale and lift chest, legs and feet off the ground, squeezing through your glutes and core to avoid over exerting your hamstrings. Hold this pose for 30 seconds, and slowly release. Repeat 2-3 times for maximum benefits, being sure to lift and lengthen to avoid crunching your lower back. You might start to feel like a superhero, but that’s just a side benefit.
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