If you cut the orange in half, you’ll end up with a dome. Just like half an orange, a pelvic floor is dome-shaped. Similar to an orange peel, a pelvic floor encloses all the contents of a pelvis: rectum, uterus, and the bladder in women. The pelvic floor also provides a foundation for the trunk.
When referring to the pelvic floor, we often refer to soft tissue structures which close the bottom of pelvic bones. These dynamic structures contribute to core stability, support pelvic organs, as well as help in maintaining the function of your bladder, bowel, and sexual systems. Additionally, the pelvic floor provides stability for movement and helps in regulating the storage and evacuation of urine and stool.
Many people may not know that the pelvic floor functions all day. Just like your lungs and heart, pelvic floor tissues keep the organs functioning and in place. Well-functioning organs always depend on the coordinated pelvic floor releases and contractions, which synergistically occur with the thoracic diaphragm on each breath.
The function of the pelvic floor is spontaneous. It doesn’t require your control, awareness, or thought. A pelvic floor functions unconsciously, controlled by your autonomic nervous system. Your autonomic nervous system has two subsystems; the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems. A sympathetic nervous system is usually referred to as a fight-or-flight system and is responsible for your survival by increasing your heart rate when there’s a threat. A parasympathetic nervous system is associated with a relaxation response after the stimulation of a flight-or-fight response. Fear and chronic stress may lead to health problems, including the dysfunction of the pelvic floor.
Pelvic floor dysfunction may present itself in many forms, both psychological and physical. It can also present itself in conditions like fecal and urinary incontinence, bowel dysfunctions, pelvic organ prolapse, sexual dysfunction, vulvar disorders, and chronic pelvic as well as lower back pain.
Background On Pelvic Floor Exercises
After the gynecologist Arnold Henry Kegel invented the perineometer, more people started focusing on their pelvic health in the 1940s-1950s. The instrument can measure the strength of the voluntary contractions of your pelvic floor muscles. Kegel is also known for pelvic floor exercises which bear his surname – Kegels.
These exercises involve repetitive contractions of pelvic floor tissues, which can be beneficial in some instances and can increase dysfunction and tension in others. If you are struggling with a pelvic floor condition, you should seek out a pelvic health physical therapist. They will be able to assess an appropriate intervention from a neuromuscular perspective. While Kegels can be beneficial for certain individuals, Pilates’ professionals don’t usually recommend these kinds of volitional contractions. Instead, they bring observation and awareness to an area and place an emphasis on balancing your breath with the coordinated movement.
The Role of Pilates in The Health of Your Pelvic Floor
Pilates is perfect when your mind focuses on a relationship between structural alignment or body landmarks, and breath, which can improve efficiency and ease in the way you move. What makes Pilates different from Kegels is that it’s rooted in a ‘Whole Body Commitment’, and ‘Whole Body Health’. It brings awareness to your entire person and system instead of isolating a particular area. The Pilates environment that is filled with compassion, warmth, as well as the understanding that everyone is a unique individual is the ideal place for healing, empowerment, and self-discovery.
The fundamental goal of a Pilates program is to restore and balance your body, especially your spine and hips. Your body is designed to squat low to the ground or sit on the ground. Simply spending time on your mat can be a great way to maintain health and restore elasticity and pelvic floor function. The important things to remember as you reflect on your pelvic floor health include focusing on your breath, having a healthy and positive relationship with your body, and limiting stressors in your life. Keeping these things in mind can help you restore balance and maintain a strong body.
Creating An Ongoing Habit
With the importance of a strong and effective pelvic floor, together with the many other benefits of Pilates such as improving your flexibility, increasing muscle tone and strength and restoring balance, it is worth your time and effort to create a habit to make it an important part of your daily life.
Your body deserves it!