Because our Pelvic Floor has an intimate relationship with our abdominals, having a healthy “Core and Floor” during pregnancy can help you find your waistline after baby is born!
These exercises are fabulous for keeping your Core strong during pregnancy, or starting back into abdominal work postpartum and are helpful in avoiding and rehabilitating Diastasis Recti (separation of abdominals) No Crunchies necessary!
(but that’s another blog series!)
Working the ‘Inner Core’ muscles should not burn like abdominal curls do. These are your endurance muscles. To challenge these muscles, we can ‘trick’ them into working with an unstable surface like a stability ball or disc under your hips or by moving our arms and legs and trying to keep our torso stable.
Watch that your belly doesn’t bulge outward or bump or tent down the centre.
*Click the links below to view these exercises in video:
Knee Stirs (elevate your torso on a soft bolster or wedge if pregnant)
During pregnancy, once that beautiful belly is starting to show, consider working your core by moving your whole body, arms or legs while using your core breaththroughout. This not only gives you a core work out but upper or lower body workout too! It doesn’t need to be strenuous to be work. We call this functional core work. Here are a few video examples of functional core work: *click the links below to be taken to the video:
Check out part one, here!
How do I find this mystical body part the Pelvic Floor?
In a recent study 49% of the women verbally instructed to use their Pelvic Floor did so incorrectly! Gulp! As a Pilates Instructor this is a sobering statistic!
In our last post we told you where your Pelvic Floor is located. Let’s see if we can help you feel your pelvic floor and become aware of its movement.
Sitting upright on a firm surface (like a chair or a step), see if you can feel the two sit-bones right underneath you. Aim to keep a small curve in the small of your back so that your tailbone doesn’t tuck under, but be careful not to over arch your back.
Take a few slow breaths and see what your body does naturally.
Here is what should be happening:
On the Inhale:
The diaphragm (main breathing muscle) contracts and pulls down.
The volume of the lungs increases and draws air in
(think of your torso and belly like a balloon inflating).
Abdominal pressure increases and Pelvic Floor responds (think of the boney landmarks at the base of your pelvis expanding or opening, you may even feel a little pressure downward).
On the Exhale:
The diaphragm (main breathing muscle) relaxes and moves up.
The volume of the lungs decreases and air flows out (think of deflating your torso and belly like a balloon).
The abdominal pressure decreases and the Transversus abdominis (lowest layer of abdominal muscle) contracts. This should feel like you’re gently shrink-wrapping your torso or tightening a corseted garment around your centre.
The Pelvic floor contracts (think of the boney landmarks at the base of your pelvis closing and gently pulling upward)
This breath is often referred to as “Core Breath”, “Diaphragmatic or Pelvic Breathing”.
Alternatively, you can do this on all fours. In either position, don’t change the position of your spine while doing the exercise. Just understanding this proper breath pattern is a huge step toward better Pelvic Floor health.
From some examples of “Core Breath” click here and here.
Front & Back
Exhale and imagine drawing your pubic bone and your tailbone closer together without using any leg, hip or cheek (glute) muscles. This should feel subtle and may feel more mentally challenging than physically! Inhale and let that go.
Repeat a few times until it feels more intuitive.
Side to Side
Now trying using your exhale to imagine drawing your sit bones together. Inhale to release. This one is much trickier and the Glute muscles (your bum cheeks!) will want to join the party. You can imagine curtains closing if that’s helpful.
Let’s put this all together!
Inhale and allow your belly to fill with air. Think of yourself like a balloon gently stretching all the way down to the bottom of your pelvis. Imagine the four boney landmarks opening away from each other like the balloon expanding or a flower opening. When you exhale, notice that the torso deflates like a balloon and the belly should come back in toward your centre. Simultaneously, draw the four points of the Pelvic Floor closer together and think of gently pulling them up inside you. Remember not to recruit extra muscles. . You’ll know you’re doing this correctly if you feel an equal engagement around the anus and the vagina openings and a small sensation like you’re trying to levitate off your seat. Some other images to consider are picking up a blueberry with your vagina or the idea of holding a tampon in. Remember to do the work with a sense of ease, there’s no clenching allowed.
Images to help you picture the actions of your pelvic floor
Egg in a nest – gently pick up the egg, place it back down. Remember to do the work with a sense of ease, there’s no clenching allowed.
picking up and place down an egg .
the movement of a jellyfish or the idea of holding a tampon in
a flower opening (and closing)
using the boney landmarks- pelvic bones (opening wider, coming closer together)
a balloon inflating and deflating
It may take some time to feel the awareness or to get the coordination. There’s no rush! The use of images can be really helpful. Your muscles have three times more sensory neurons than motor neurons which means that if you use a variety of images while practicing, your brain will mirror back to your body what you want it to do and you’ll have an easier time finding some sensation.
Once you’ve mastered this breathing in coordination with Pelvic Floor awareness we’ve got some other ideas for you to play with too!
**the following ideas/ exercises are meant to create awareness and are not exercises that should be done everyday as part of a practice**
The next time you urinate see if you recognize when your Pelvic Floor is open and when it closes. (HINT: it opens to let things out and closes to hold thing in!) Are you able to keep it open for a few seconds after the stream of urine has ended? Are you then able to close it slowly as you did in the previous exercises?
When having a bowel movement, also take time to become aware of the pelvic floor. Notice your body’s own willingness and urge to push without any excess, intentional help from you. Can you support the urge to push with your Core Breath exercise (above) but this time keep your pelvic floor open both while inhaling and exhaling? This is a very calm gentle version of what it’s like to push during birth!
Egg Photo: Artist – MaryJo Hoffman
Jelly Fish: http://www.worldatlas.com
Lotus Flower: Artist – Florence W Deems
Pubic Arch: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pubic_arch
Balloon Lung: https://basicmedicalkey.com
Bowel posture: https://suecroftphysiotherapistblog.wordpress.com
What needs to be as flexible as your tongue, as strong as your abdominals and is incredibly important to the pregnant and postnatal body?!
Well, yes, but I was referring to your Pelvic Floor!Along with the transversus abdominis, multifidi and diaphragm, the Pelvic Floor is considered part of the “Inner Core” or “True Core”.
What does the Pelvic Floor do?
These muscle systems work together to stabilize the pelvis, lumbar spine and rib cage when stress is placed on them… ummm, like during pregnancy or when carrying a newborn baby around.
The Pelvic Floor muscles help to hold the pelvis together and connect the pelvis to the femur (thigh bone). Daily, they work against gravity to hold up the contents of the abdomen and control what comes out, and when!
During pregnancy, the weight of a growing uterus and baby put a great deal of extra load on these muscles. Two of the most obvious and uncomfortable issues with a weakened Pelvic Floor are incontinence and hemorrhoids. A strong Pelvic Floor is needed for a more comfortable pregnancy.
Looking into the pelvis at the muscles of the Pelvic Floor.
Why do we need a healthy Pelvic Floor?
A healthy Pelvic Floor is also essential for childbirth. Equally as important to a strong Pelvic Floor is a flexible Pelvic Floor. During birth it must know how to release, relax and expel! This flexibility can make pushing more effective, and therefore, possibly shortening this stage of labour and making it less exhausting.
After the birth of a baby, including a Caesarean birth, the Pelvic Floor is compromised and needs special attention to heal and function well. We highly recommend all postnatal bodies to see a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist within the first six weeks of recovery.
A physiotherapist will be able to let you know specifically what to address within your body. If unattended, a dysfunctional Pelvic Floor can lead to a host of uncomfortable and undesirable affects including:
Urinary Stress & Urge Incontinence .
Pelvic organ prolapse .
Chronic pelvic pain .
Dyspareunia (painful intercourse) .
And can even contribute to back pain and cause mummy tummy. .
Don’t panic! Appropriate and safe exercising will help with blood circulation and delivery of oxygen to these important muscles as well as exercising the muscles themselves.
Let us show you how to show your Floor some Love!
Make sure you stay tuned, all week, for the rest of this great 4 part series all about your Pelvic Floor!
We love Jasmine Grace’s dedication and love of pole exercise + dancing; watch her postpartum pole progress 6 weeks to 6 months post birth.
“Jasmine discovered pole dancing in 2007 and has been hooked ever since. She started teaching pole in 2011 and in that same year developed Online Pole Studio to further share her love for pole with the world.”
The other day, a woman asked me how far along I am in my pregnancy and commented about how wonderful I look… following that statement with, “I bet you’re one of those girls who gets skinny right away, too, right?!”
At 35 weeks pregnant, I could’ve thought of a million different ways to respond, but I just smiled and shared that my 2-year-old keeps me super busy, moving on with my day, BUT her comment really stuck with me.
Because — what I really wanted to share was how I struggled with my weight my entire life. Weight does not just “drop off me,” nor will I magically “get skinny” after this baby is born. In fact, if I even look at ice cream or a bag of chips, I practically gain 5 lbs immediately. ((True story. It goes right to my cheeks!))
I’ve had my ups and downs over the years and I have truly worked to maintain a healthy weight gain throughout this pregnancy by making daily fitness and clean eating a PRIORITY. I love that I get to inspire others by sharing my health journey, but the part that really needs to be known is that I struggle too.
I know what it’s like to wake up in the morning and hit snooze, missing my workout and not wanting to do it later in the day.
I know what it’s like to crave the ease and convenience, not to mention the delicious taste, of pizza… and to have weeks where I would love to just eat it every. single. night. (with ice cream for dessert).
I know what it’s like to start “on Monday,” over and over and over again, only to find that I failed… resorting yet again to the vicious cycle of yo-yo dieting, weight loss pills, binge eating, and over exercise.
I GET IT.
BUT, I also know that I have found something incredible, something that works for me. And it’s not just the tools that Beachbody has to offer…
It’s the SUPPORT and ACCOUNTABILITY that was offered to me by joining the Beachbody team and now I have the opportunity to provide this support to the women I work with everyday!
Do you find yourself feeling stuck… knowing that you want to get into a solid routine, but not knowing where to begin… or worrying that you might fail again? I promise, you’re not alone.
Over the next few months, I will have the opportunity to share with you what I’ve learned about Pre/postnatal Fitness from my own personal experience with the Beachbody program. I will share modifications that have helped me to maintain a solid commitment to fitness throughout my pregnancy journey, as well as time-saving tips and tricks to make “your time” a priority, and I will share opportunities to experience true support and accountability as part of exclusive, online wellness groups. My goal as a health coach is to empower you to embrace self-care and wellness, in order to feel more confident, healthy and vibrant in your post-baby body.
For unconditional support and accountability, head over to my private Facebook Community, Babies & Barbells! Once there, please introduce yourself!