#BE15for15 – Day 6 – Pelvic Floor, the Belly’s BFF
Today let’s talk about the deep abdominal muscles best friends… the deep muscles of the pelvic floor! The muscles of the pelvic floor act as a muscular hammock that gives support to your body at the base of the pelvis. These muscles span from the pubic bones in the front to the tailbone in the back and side-to-side from one sitting bone to the other. They support our internal organs as well as helping us to stabilize our spine.
It’s not uncommon to lose connection with these muscles in the same way you could lose touch with a friend if you don’t communicate regularly. In the beginning, it may feel tricky to connect with the pelvic floor if you have not attempted to “talk” with your pelvic floor in a long time – or ever. If you have had any trauma to the tissues of the pelvic floor resulting from childbirth, surgery or injury, please be patient and kind with yourself. You may not feel your pelvic floor muscles moving as we work on this next component. If that is the case, don’t worry. With practice eventually you will re-establish this connection. For now just stay open to the possibility of feeling connection and movement at the pelvic floor in the future.
The pelvic floor, like the belly, is also a common area where we may hold tension without being aware of it. If you encounter resistance to the movement of the breath and to sensation in the pelvic floor, don’t be discouraged. Invite your breath to begin to move gently into this area. Take your time and be compassionate with yourself. Honor any resistance or emotion that accompanies this work.
If you have experienced sexual trauma, proceed with gentle awareness. If working with increased breath and awareness in the lower abdomen and pelvic floor begins to bring up emotions, continue breathing, honor these feelings and proceed at your own pace. The body can hold experiences in its tissues, and it is possible that working with the body and breath can begin to draw out stored information about such experiences. Using the breath and awareness to release and move through these experiences can be highly beneficial. Please reach out for all of the help and support you need, whether it be from friends, family members or supportive professionals like psychotherapists, so that you can move into a greater space of integration and healing through this experience.
The pelvic floor naturally moves in a manner similar to the respiratory diaphragm that we talked about before. As we inhale, the pelvic floor relaxes downward. As we exhale, the muscles of the pelvic floor draw gently in and up. One way to think about this action is to picture the center of your pelvic floor (that point midway between your genitals and anus) gently drawing in and up as you exhale. As you inhale, let this same point relax gently downward. Similarly to the belly, it is just as important to be able to let the pelvic floor relax as it is to be able to have it contract. In the following photos, my hands are placed about where the pelvic floor is located to show the subtle movement that occurs with the breath.
Let’s give this awareness of the pelvic floor a try while we breathe now. Allow your focus to be on your breath and the subtle action of your pelvic floor. As you inhale, allow your pelvic floor to softly relax downward. As you exhale, feel your pelvic floor gently drawing in and up.
Lets take five more breaths just like that, focusing on the subtle movement of your pelvic floor.
The deep abdominal muscles and the pelvic floor muscles are considered “co-contractors” because they work best when they work together to help stabilize your spine and facilitate full breathing. Let’s explore integrating the motions at the pelvic floor and the belly. With each inhale, draw your breath in and down so that it feels like your breath is flowing all the way down into the base of your pelvic bowl. As your belly gently expands outward, your pelvic floor expands downward. As you breathe out, gently draw your pelvic floor in and up, and draw your belly in and up as you exhale softly and completely.
As you inhale, allow yourself to feel a sense of expansion and spaciousness at your pelvic floor and in your belly. As you exhale, feel a sense of energetic lift from the pelvic floor, upward through your body. Feel the exhale travel upward just in front of your spine, up toward the crown of your head. Take five more breaths like that now. You may close your eyes and focus on your breath and sensations if that is helpful to you. When you feel ready, allow yourself to gently blink your eyes open.
If you are still having difficulty feeling the movement at the pelvic floor, don’t worry. The more you tune in to the sensations of your pelvic floor and practice noticing what is happening in this area of your body, the easier this motion will become to feel. All it takes to reconnect with forgotten areas of the body is time, practice and patience. Be gentle and practice patience and kindness with yourself as you re-establish this connection.
When you feel ready to begin your practice, set your timer – or press play to begin your guided Daily Breathe Easy practice (included with the Breathe Easy audio book). Allow yourself to continue to observe your breath for 15 minutes. Focus on the easy, gentle movement at your pelvic floor during your practice today. Notice any thoughts, sensations, or emotions that reveal themselves to you through this experience. Do not fight them or judge them. Simply notice what shows up and allow it to be. Keep connecting with the movement at your pelvic floor.
Maintain this connection to your breath and when you feel ready, gently blink your eyes open if you have closed them.
Notice how you feel after connecting with your breath. If you are using a journal during this process (which I highly recommend), record how you feel after your second 15 minute experience. Did you feel subtle movement of the breath in the pelvic bowl? How does it feel to connect with the pelvic floor? Write down any observations that feel important to you about this awareness based experience with your breath in your journal now. Did this experience feel challenging? Did it feel easy? What did you notice? Was your practice today different than yesterday? If so, in what way(s)? Remember to be kind and to give yourself the gift of grace. Tomorrow we will discuss connecting the movement at the belly and the subtle movement at the pelvic floor with how we sit or stand. Posture can influence our breath (and how the diaphragm and pelvic floor relate to one another) quite a bit. If you have any thoughts or questions you would like to share, please feel free to do so in the comments section! I’ll do my best to keep up!