If you’ve ever leaked while running or any other activity, the natural response is to tighten the muscles of your body and pelvic floor to try to stop urine loss.
But chronic holding creates muscle tension in the body, often making leaking worse.
This is because the pelvic floor acts like a trampoline, lowering and rising with breath. The amount of descent of the ‘trampoline’ is important in creating upward recoil of the pelvic floor (aka your Kegel). However, chronically holding tension minimizes the ability for the pelvic floor to descend, and therefore less upward response. This leads to a dysfunctional pelvic floor.
Often improving pelvic floor function starts with learning to relax and lengthen the pelvic floor.
Many women find a dramatic improvement in their leaking and other symptoms by focusing on releasing the tension they had been holding. This allows the pelvic floor to return to its natural trampoline action.
Try out my favourite yoga poses for opening and lengthening the pelvic floor paired with deep diaphragm breathing during the below yoga poses.
Diaphragm Breathing 101: inhale through nose as ribs expand in all directions, back and belly rise, lengthening the pelvic floor, passive exhale through the mouth. Check out this video, and this video, if you’re not familiar with it.
Deep squat: aim to maintain a long spine as the hips and pelvic floor open, press palm into palm as elbows open the inner thighs. Inhale into the ribs, back and belly imagining the inhale traveling down to the pelvic floor to lengthen. Stay for 5 breath cycles. (A note on how to modify the above: if full squat is too challenging, use a small stool for support. Prioritize a long spine by bringing the hands to chest level instead of between the knees.)
Child’s pose: knees wide, hips sit back toward heels. No upper body tension should be present. Inhale into pelvic floor, imagine lengthening toward the heels as belly drops to the floor. Stay for 5 breath cycles. (Modify: place a pillow between the bottom and calves if full child’s pose is too deep.)
Half Happy Baby: draw 1 leg up and along outside of chest, pulling down into the foot to open. Keep tailbone on the mat. Inhale into pelvic floor for 5 breath cycles. (Modify: grab behind the knee to draw thigh up and down along chest.)
Goddess Squat Twist: start with feet wider than hips, toes pointing out. Lower down into squat and bring hands to inner thigh, pressing thighs open with hands. Inhale and twist while hands continue to press inner thighs open. Stay for 5 breath cycles, stand up and repeat to the opposite side. (Modify: can’t stay for 5 breaths? Inhale squat and twist for 1-2 breaths then stand and twist to opposite side for 1-2 breaths.)
Caroline Packard is a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist and an ambassador for Uresta Canada, a company we love which helps women solve bladder issues. On March 8 at 12pm EST on International Women’s Day, Caroline will host an Instagram Live session with our own Anna Lee Boschetto on Uresta’s IG account, @myuresta. Tune in, ask anything, find a safe place and get ready to reclaim your run.