Author: Sarah Gibbons, PT, DPT
More people than you realize struggle with pelvic floor dysfunction. This problem means difficulty with any of the three systems that this area controls, including urination, defecation, and sexual function. Some common examples of dysfunction include urgency and frequency of urination and defecation, urinary and bowel incontinence, pain with sexual intercourse, or difficulty having or sustaining an erection.
A common misconception to pelvic floor dysfunction is that “kegel” exercises will solve everything. Unfortunately, it is not so simple. In most cases, the pelvic floor muscles are not only weak but they are also tight and tender to the touch If the muscles are already too tight, performing an exercise to strengthen the pelvic floor will only cause more pain and discomfort. What needs to happen first is that the pelvic floor muscles be returned to their original lengthened position before strengthening can resume.
Now, you may ask: how does the pelvic floor become so tight to begin with? Often, pelvic floor restriction is due to abdominal, hip, and low back inflexibility and weakness. Our hips can be inflexible due to our Western life-style of sitting in chairs for most of the day. It is also common for one hip to be tighter than the other due to the fact that we usually use one side of our body to do most tasks, ie. driving an automatic car. Tightness in one hip will make the muscles in the pelvic floor on that side restricted, which then can lead to pelvic floor dysfunction.
How can yoga help? Yoga emphasizes core and hip strength and flexibility. When the hips and core are strong and flexible, the pelvic floor can return to its optimal state. Yoga also focuses on deep breathing, another crucial ingredient for relaxing tight muscles of the pelvic floor. Finally, yoga helps to hone the mind, allowing for increased mindfulness and clarity. When the mind is aware of the tension that the body is holding, it can help in the process of intentional relaxation.
Yoga at N2 Physical Therapy is taught by Sarah Gibbons, DPT, who has been studying Anusara, Ashtanga, and Ana Forrest yoga for 15 years. Every class focuses on abdominal strengthening and awareness to prevent back pain or injury. She is mindful in her verbal cueing to encourage each student to move their body with integrity and get the most out of the asanas. The class is a small intimate setting with music and dim lighting and is affordable for a $10 drop in rate. it is held every Thursday at 5pm at the Louisville Location.