Six Things I Love About the Pelvic Floor.

In preparing for my upcoming workshop, “Yoga and the Pelvic Floor: Anatomy, Asana, and Energetics,” I am once again in a place of digging deeper, and becoming amazed at our incredible, vital, tender, strong pelvic floors… how without certain care, our bodies do become problematic in numerous ways as a result of collapse, aging, repetitive stress, and the nature of temporal existence… but that with small, committed, simple practices, with understanding, compassion, and appreciation of our bodies, we can maintain a foundation of vibrant health. Not only do we want healthy enduring function, but we want to be able to sense, enjoy, and explore all the possibilities of this special area. What is your relationship to your pelvic floor? What comes up when you think about it? How might getting in touch and loving your body help you be more in touch and loving with others aspects of your life and world?

Here are 6 things I love about the pelvic floor, in no particular order. (What would you put on your list?)

1.  The perineum! It’s so especially soft to touch, yet SO STRONG! The center of the perineum, or central tendon, is an anchoring point for all the surrounding musculature. It is a powerful epicenter of connective tissue where the following muscles insert: the deep transverse muscles of the perineum, the bulbospongiosus muscle, the levator ani, and  the anal sphincter. perineum

2.  GOOD SEX. The more awareness, ability to relax, and ability to contract our pelvic floor muscles we have, the more we can control, feel, and enjoy when we reach orgasm during sex. In healthy women, as this study shows, the stronger the PC muscles are, the more powerful orgasms are. In 1952, Dr. Kegel published a report in which he claimed that the women doing his exercises were becoming more easily, more frequently and more intensely orgasmic. However, it is key to not just practice”kegeling” but having a healthy relationship to your pelvic floor, again that important mind-body piece. The combination of healthy tone, flexibility, AND hormonal release (read: ability to relax, feel safe, dip into the parasympathetic nervous system…) is what I come up with when I saw this study that shows PC muscle exercises alone don’t improve satisfaction. In the instance of pelvic pain, for men and women, releasing and relaxing is key. For folks with male genitals, more tone can lead to avoiding premature ejaculation, and delaying and building more orgasmic power. Yoga practices that are carried out with mindfulness, and include toning and releasing pelvic floor muscles are a very good way to care for your pelvic floor and your healthy sexual expression.

3. Psoas support. A healthy pelvic floor helps enable the psoas to be long and lush, which helps to enable grounded femurs, reduce lower lumber compression, release the kidney area, inhibit habituated fear response, allow healthy space for breath and the vital irrigation and function of the vital organs.psoas

4. Avoiding/ Diminishing Prolapse and Incontinence. In both men and women, especially mamas who have given birth, toning the pelvic floor muscles is key for avoiding prolapse and incontinence. If you’ve ever jumped on a trampoline and peed your pants, you know what this story is about.  It is very important that the median muscles of the levator ani (the puborectalis bundle) have good tone in order to actively support the bladder, and in ladies, the uterus. Weakness of this muscle is almost always the cause of prolapse or incontinence. As our bodies age, this becomes much more a potential issue. Rather than going down the road of shame and frustration, what if we practice appreciating the amazing job our pelvic floor is doing? After all, it is relatively new in our evolutionary history that we have been walking around with the spine in a vertical axis, and all the weight of our inner organs resting on the pelvic floor. This clever drawing from Eric Frankin’s book Pelvic Power illustrates this major shift. With care, we can strengthen this foundation, our true core, and support our vital organs, inner body length, radiant movement, and energetic resonance. pelvisevolutionMuladhara_Chakra_by_JewelOfSong

5. Muladhara Chakra. The pelvic floor energetically relates to our base chakra, Muladhara, the ROOT chakra. Symbolized by the four petals, it makes a square shape which corresponds to the anatomy of the perineum. Energetically: earth, survival, stability/ freedom organization, boundaries, safety, being grounded.  When there is balance and vitality here, we feel safe to take up space in the world, we feel at home in ourselves, able to know what our boundaries are, in relationships, in how much energy we can give… in how much we can receive.

6. Mula Bandha. Bandhas are techniques used in yoga to guide the flow of prana, vital life energy, through our being. There are 3 bandhas, and this Mula Bandha, meaning “Root Lock” can be felt as an energetic seal, valve, or lock, that allows the energy pouring down, “apana vaya,” to be contained and sent upwards. This feeds inner body length, an important element for the 2nd bandha, Uddiyana bandha, to be practiced. The multidimensional physical-energetic action of mula bandha is key to creating subtler relationships of freedom and equilibrium in our asana practice.  This work can then radiate into our life, nurturing an ability to be deliberate with the way we use our creative energy, with how we live and connectP1020497.

Centeredness can be a deep form of self love, acceptance, protection. This work can foster a sense of knowing your own center, your own power.

 

If you are interested in experiencing some of these yogic explorations in embodied awareness, and you are in or near Albuquerque NM, join me this Sunday May 4th 2-5 pm for the workshop at High Desert Yoga. Be sure to preregister online, on the phone, or in person. Or, let me know what you think, here, or on my facebook page. I love to learn about this topic and am curious what insights you have.

Urdva Hastasana Saves the Day

Delightful, today, to feel the upward rise, like the reach of a candle flame, so deep in my center. I was practicing Urdva Hastasana, or “Upward arms pose.” Tadasana, with arms raised high, heads of the humerus (upper arm bones), outer heads of the femurs, or greater trochanters (top of the thigh bones) and center heels all stacked tall in a line atop the earth’s center of gravity.

The simultaneous rising up of my perineum, the inner heads of the humerus, and the base of my skull created this profound feeling of inner body length – an integrated from of Uddiyana. In this pose, the arms lifted feeds the extension bias to the spine, and this often challenges the length of the kidney area, around the junction of T12, and L1, where the thoracic spine meets the lumber spine. The perineum, that apex of strength at the center of the pelvic floor, which gathers in the core of the figure 8 shaped bands of muscles around the front and back openings, made of connective tissue to which the bands of muscle anchor, can lift here to create the internal physiological and energetic support to lengthen the kidney area. As the kidney area lengthens, the lowest lumbar vertebra actually draw in deeper, while T1, at the base of the neck, also releases in, freeing the neck to lengthen as the inner armpits deepen into the back body.

from http://chestofbooks.com/health/anatomy/Human-Body-Construction/The-Female-Perineum.html#.UWRdX6u4Hyc

(Image taken from this article on The Female Perineum.)

This is just one example of how pelvic floor strength can support the total integrity and alignment in an asana. However the real gift of this experience of alignment was the profound feeling of freedom and pleasure in the body… and through this pleasure, a new reference created for what is possible.

The body will choose comfort, even when comfort simply means familiar and is degenerative. As I practice, I give my body a chance to experience new reference points for what is comfortable, for what is “home.” This experience of the triplicity lifting length in Urvda Hastasana while my heels anchored deep gave me a renewed sense of where my body can live. And as an encouraging sidenote, this release of the inner body through organization and pelvic floor power has given relief from pain. Today I was moving slow, due to being on the first day of my period, and feeling crampy and low energy. By unloading the visceral body though this work, however, my belly now feels spacious and relaxed; the cramping sensation have disappeared, miraculously.

And here is Mr. BKA Iyengar, in hanumanasana.... The torso doing the same work as in Urva Hastasana. Note the deeply grounded humerous and exquisite kidney length!  I am willing to bet his perineum is working enthusiastically, to support this much organization.

And here is Mr. BKS Iyengar, in hanumanasana…. his torso is doing the same pose as in Urva Hastasana, (which is why I using this image here to discuss the actions in the article. Apparently Iyengar’s Urdva Hastasana isn’t exotic enough to merit pictures online yet! And instead of scanning one in from Light On Yoga I am using this one to illustrate the similar work. Note, amazingly, how even with the legs in Hanumanasana the powerful Tadasana spine!) Also, see the deeply grounded humerous and exquisite kidney length. I am willing to bet his perineum is working enthusiastically, to support this much organization.