While doing yoga or other activities, we often hear teachers and even doctors tell us, “now use your pelvic floor.” Or, my favorite line I’ve heard from a yoga teacher is, “activate your pelvic floor”, like it’s an assumed, all-knowing action as simple as turning on your blender and mixing a cake!
As the creator of Core Functional Fitness and a yoga teacher (and prenatal/postnatal teacher) this is an area we as teachers and students to commonly feel a bit weird talking about, avoid talking about, or only explain it half way. This is likely because we are uncomfortable saying certain words in class or to friends like, “anal sphincter” or “vaginal passageway”, or possibly because we just don’t know how to refer to certain areas.
Regardless, this is an area of the body we need to talk about – a lot! For starters, our root chakra is located in the pelvic area, and is our area of grounding and rooting. Just above is our sacral or sex chakra dealing with our reproductive organs and sexuality. Both are areas of deep connection with us and this earth.
Both women and men need to work on the pelvic floor (and pelvic bowl) regularly, and this sacred area needs to be better understood not only in yoga classes, but even in activities like Zumba, aerobics, running, and activities with(pelvic floor) impact (such as sneezing). And I don’t know about you, but I’d like to not pee my pants at any sudden moment, be able to keep my organs in place, support and protect my back, and offer some energetic support to my body.
Here are some key facts you need to know about the pelvic floor:
1. Understand that there are three openings (or orifices) for women and two orifices for men. For women, this includes the anal sphincter (or anal canal), vaginal passageway (birth canal). These two openings are connected by the central tendon of the perineum this is what is often cut during an episiotomy. And finally, the urethra (clitoris area). For men, the two openings include the anal sphincter and the urethra.
2. There are four cornerstones that make up the pelvic floor and end up making four small triangles: pubic bone to sit bone (tuberosity) to tail bone (coccyx) to sit bone to pubic bone again. (Draw out these four points on paper and then connect the dots to help you visualize this sectioning.)
3. Know that the pelvic floor has a main superficial layer of large thick fibrous muscles called the perineum (many simply call the pelvic floor). In addition to the perineum is the deep layer called the pelvic diaphragm, here, a layer of large thick muscles, sitting above the superficial layer, perineum. These areas are important to find and understand how to use as they are the base for your inner organs and a key muscle in many other body functions, as well as the main grouping of muscles for women to have a successful delivery and postpartum recovery. Think of the perineum as the hammock and above the hammock is the pelvic diaphragm, which is opposite of the diaphragm, making it the pelvic diaphragm.
The Pelvic Floor has three purposes: