Now for a brief refresher. A healthy pelvic floor is important for preventing and correcting incontinence and vaginal prolapse. The basics of a pelvic floor exercise, or Kegel exercise as it is sometimes called, is this: you imagine you’re stopping the flow when doing a pee. It feels like a tightening,” pulling up and in” sensation inside. You might feel it around where you pee, or you might feel it in the vagina. After holding it there, you let go. Have you got it? Now check you’re not making these common mistakes, and discover the repercussions of each mistake.
1. You’re actually stopping your pee mid-stream.
Some people are still following the old advice to actually stop the flow to work their pelvic floor.
This interrupts the complex neurological process of emptying the bladder, and in some cases can make you empty incompletely, leading to its own problems.
2. You’re getting down on the floor to do them.
They may be called ”pelvic floor exercises” – but this is because the muscles line the floor of the pelvis.
If you really want to, you can lie on the floor to do them – but you don’t have to. It would be like wearing a red hat every time you do them – harmless but unnecessary!
3. You’re doing a pelvic tilt.
If your pelvis visibly moves when you’re doing it, you’re not doing a pelvic floor exercise. I’ll never forget an elderly client demonstrating her pelvic floor exercise for me – not only did she tilt her pelvis, she half-stood and leaned so far forward her back was nearly parallel to the ground!
All your hard work can be in vain if you’re simply moving your pelvis instead of pulling up and in inside your pelvis. Fine for some types of sore back, but for pelvic floor, barking up the wrong tree!
4. You’re squeezing your bottom, sucking in your abs strongly or tightening your legs.
”Buns of steel” and ”rock hard abs” are not the goals here. You shouldn’t see your legs move when you do your pelvic floor. You shouldn’t lift off the chair – in fact, if anyone can tell you’re doing them, you’re doing them wrong!
At best, working all the wrong muscles can mean you will get nowhere fast! At worst, you can create a major muscle imbalance in your pelvic floor. I’ve seen this plenty with women who are only doing their pelvic floors during Pilates. Try lying in front of a mirror without underwear on, or using a hand mirror. When you do your pelvic floor contraction correctly, you should actually see the perineum (area between vagina and anus) draw inward into the body. Try it, you might be surprised how obvious it is!
5. You’re bearing down.
Some women think they are doing their pelvic floors, but they are actually pushing down, like they’re having a baby! Please – this action should be confined to exactly that – having a baby!
Bearing down or pushing down weakens the pelvic floor over time and can make symptoms of prolapse and incontinence worse – and means you’re not getting any of the benefits of correct pelvic floor exercises.
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