Kegel exercises, along with Perineum Massage, help to prepare the pelvic floor for birth, as well as aid in postnatal recovery.
However Kegels are not for everyone. Some women have to ease up on or even avoid doing Kegels all together during pregnancy (and afterwards). Whether it be due to pelvic floor dysfunction or an over-toned perineum, telltale signs that Kegels may not be appropriate for you include pain in the pelvic area during exercise, sex, or when going to the bathroom, feeling chronic pain in your hips, lower back or pubic area, or if you already suspect prolapse. If you’re not sure, seek assessment from your doctor, midwife, osteopath or a pelvic health physiotherapist. (That said, you can still do Exercises #1 and #6)
Kegels exercise the perineum, or pelvic floor, which is made up of the musculature and tissues surrounding and including the space between the anus and the vagina up to the urethra.
Keeping this part of the body toned is essential in global well-being, and to support the abdominal organs and muscles. Kegels can also help prevent and heal incontinence during and after pregnancy, and are an important part of healing diastasis recti.
In yoga tradition, the pelvic floor is known as the battery of the body, source of vitality of the being.
Here are 6 exercises for the health and maintenance of the perineum that you can do all throughout your pregnancy and within a few days after birth.
To do these exercises, find a comfortable position in which you can relax, preferably lying down on your back, or in a reclined position if you’re pregnant, with the back and head propped by a bolster or pillow.
#1: PERINEUM BREATHING
To begin, breathe deeply into the belly, imagining that your belly is a balloon or a lung; feel it expand as you inhale, and on the exhale, simply let the air out. 5 – 10 breaths.
Move this imagery towards your perineum, imagining that your perineum is also like a balloon or a lung, feel how it also ever so slightly expands as you inhale and how on the exhale, it returns gently back. 5 – 10 breaths.
Feeling the perineum “breathe” is actually not just an impression. The perineum’s movements are connected to the diaphragm (the beautiful umbrella-shaped muscle in our torso that expands the rib cage to let air fill the lungs) so that when the diaphragm moves, so in fact does the perineum.
This technique will practice “Belly Breathing”, a wonderful tool in birth preparation and postnatal rehabilitation.
#2: BREATHING IN RELEASE, BREATHING OUT ACTIVATE.
As you continue to use perineum breathing, inhale let the perineum muscles relax and “expand”, exhale gently activate the muscles as if to hold in the urge to urinate and a bowel movement.
Inhale muscles release, exhale activate. Repeat 5-10 times.
When you activate the pelvic floor muscles, think of lifting them in and up. Keep the surrounding muscles like the buttocks, thighs and belly as relaxed as you can, even while you activate the pelvic floor.
#3: THE ISOLATION CHALLENGE
Using perineum breathing, inhale let the pelvic floor muscles relax and expand, exhale activate as best you can only your urethra. 3-5 repetitions.
Move the focus towards the vagina, followed by the anus, trying to isolate and contract only these muscles on the exhale. 3-5 repetitions.
Finally, contract all three at the same time. Inhale release, exhale contract. 3-5 repetitions.
You may already feel the pelvic floor muscles are “stronger” and toned, just with this one exercise.
#4: THE ELEVATOR
Sometimes called the elevator, this exercise will help to make connections with your core musculature (the abdominal musculature that supports us from the inside, our “center”, or core).
Using perineum breathing, inhale expand, exhale activate the pelvic floor muscles and maintain the contraction.
Maintain the contraction on the inhale, exhale move upward. Repeat for 5 breaths.
To release, gently let the muscles go at a slow, steady pace and take a moment to relax the pelvic floor muscles completely.
#5: QUICK REPETITIONS
Activate and release the pelvic floor muscles as fast as you can. 20-30 times.
#6: THE RELEASE
It is just as important to know how to relax the perineum as it is to strengthen it. Knowing how to relax and release the pelvic floor is important for vaginal birth, as well as for maintaining a healthy, toned perineum for life after birth.
After these exercises, take a moment to let the muscles go completely. Going back to perineum breathing, feel the movement of expansion on the inhale and of complete release on the exhale. 10 to 20 breaths.
Relaxing the jaw and mouth can help to release tension in the rest of the body ( a relaxation tool that can be used during labor as well )
While practicing Kegels, isolate the muscles being used as best you can, and avoid tensing the buttocks, thighs and belly.
A toned pelvic floor will have a direct effect on maintaining a healthy posture.
Adding movement to your Kegel work will help to integrate the pelvic floor exercises into the overall functionality of the body, and connect to deep core muscles. Try incorporating Kegels into:
Hi! I’m Myriam, a former dancer turned yoga teacher based in Montreal. I’m also mama to two unbearably beautiful little ones, ages 1 and 4. ? I believe in the virtues of bringing breath and body awareness as well as humor and loving-kindness to new mamas, and mamas-to-be! Read more→
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