Breath and Posture are critical to overall health, but did you know they are key to a healthy pelvic floor (PF)?
We are designed to breathe deeply, with our diaphragm expanding down into our abdominal cavity which in turn breathes the organs down into the pelvic floor. This creates a stretch and contract for the pelvic floor muscles, which is crucial for a healthy PF because it is needed to keep it balanced and toned. Unfortunately life, stress, holding our bellies in to look thinner and tight jeans all get in the way.
How our pelvis is positioned has a profound effect on how deep we can breathe. This is true whether sitting, standing or lying down. Or in the case of the movement below, on hands and knees. In all positions we want to aim for a neutral pelvis. Neutral being not too far tipped forward and not too tucked under.
Cat-Cow Pose for Pelvic Floor
This is a pose (actually a movement between poses) that is great to experiment with finding a neutral pelvis as well as one I see given to many suffering pelvic floor dysfunction. However, what I don’t often see is it properly explained. The movement itself is beneficial, as it stretches the pelvic floor as we tilt the sit bones* up to the sky, and contracts the PF as we round the spine and tuck the tail. But adding correct breath in the right pose is helpful, as is finding the “sweet spot” between the two poses for optimal breathing.
Come onto hands and knees. Hands a bit wider than shoulders and knees under hips. Inhale as you lift your sit bones and move your heart forward (belly will lower to floor). Exhale, round your spine, press the floor away and lift your belly. Do it again, inhale tilting your sit bones up and imagine your sit bones widen and stretch, exhaling rounding, tucking the tail and feeling the sit bones come together and the PF shorten or “close.” Repeat a few times.
Now, play with the breath somewhere in between. Look for that spot where you can feel your breath expand deeply and fill your pelvic bowl. It won’t be when the sit bones are tilted fully up, and it won’t be when the tail is tucked, but somewhere in between in what we call a neutral pelvis. Your fuller deeper breath will tell you when you found it. When you do find it, stay in that position and breathe several deep breaths, focusing on feeling expansion of the breath between your sitting bones.
When I work with a client, we use several positions to find their “sweet spot” and their deep pelvic breath. Even those that have difficulty breathing diaphragmatically often find they suddenly can when they learn the neutral pelvis.
*The two bony protrusions at the base of the pelvis we are supposed to sit up on.