3 Tension-Relieving Exercises For Your Pelvic Floor & Total-Body, From A Corrective Exercise Specialist
The pelvic floor, in addition to supporting your torso, can act as a stress ball. When you're in a constant state of stress (hello, 2020!), holding your breath, and gripping your core, you could actually be weakening these muscles. The constant state of squeeze without ever fully letting go can make you feel completely disconnected from this area of your body, leading to limited mobility, muscle tone, freedom of movement, and even low-back, neck, and hip pain.
As a corrective exercise specialist, I'd argue that the ability to find full relaxation of these muscles is equally if not more important than strengthening them (aka a Kegel). That's because it can have a positive effect on your core strength, be a great tool to practice mindfulness, and even help get your body out of a panic state when times are difficult.
If you take nothing else from this article, let it be this! When we are stressed, our breathing tends to get shallower, or we hold our breath altogether. Breathing deeply not only activates your parasympathetic nervous system (in charge of rest and digest) but it helps manage intra-abdominal pressure. The key here is not strictly belly breathing but rather taking a three dimensional breath.
- On the inhale, expand the sides and the back of the rib cage along with the low belly.
- Let the pelvic floor drop, using the same release reflex you use when you want to let a stream of urine flow (if you're nervous about controlling your bladder, try this in the shower first).
- On the exhale, visualize your torso wrapping, or corseting inward while lifting, not just squeezing, the pelvic floor for a deep core contraction.
2. Inner Thigh Roll
Our inner thighs are essentially an extension of the pelvic floor. The muscle fibers of the adductors, or inner thighs, cross over the pubic bone and connect directly into the core. This means that tightness here can cause compensation and tension along the pelvic floor muscles, due to their kinetic chain correlation.
- Lie down as if you were setting up for a plank, and bend one leg to rest on top of a foam roller (set up longways).
- Gently rock toward your knee and then back up toward your groin.
- Be mindful to keep the torso parallel to the floor and your shoulders just as stable as you would in a plank, to prevent any excess tension from creeping into the neck and shoulders as a result.
3. Figure-4 Stretch
The deep rotator muscles are actually part of the pelvic floor as well, which is why figure-4 stretch is also so great for helping relieve back pain.
- Lie on your back with you knees bent, flex the right foot, and cross the ankle over the left thigh.
- Try to maintain a neutral pelvis, and keep your head and chest resting on the floor.
- To deepen this stretch, hug the back of the left thigh into the chest to increase the external rotation of the top leg.
- Hold for around 30 seconds, maybe even adding in a slight rock from side to side, and repeat on the other leg.
These releases are safe for everyone, but with that said, if you have prolapse or pain in the pelvic area, you should definitely look into seeing a physical therapist who specializes in this area for a manual assessment. Even fit pros have trainers and specialists who help them feel their best—if you're local to NYC, I recommend checking out my own physical therapist, Michele Danu, P.T., WCS, PRPC, board-certified clinical specialist in women's health and certified pelvic rehabilitation practitioner.
Helen Phelan is body neutral pilates instructor, intuitive eating coach, reiki practitioner, prenatal/postpartum corrective exercise specialist, and creator of Helen Phelan Studio, a virtual pilates studio app and community for womxn craving movement that feels amazing, minus the body shaming.