The PILATES theme of the week is THE PELVIC FLOOR:
Take a look at the 16 second 3D video below to show the anatomy of the pelvic floor:
THE PELVIC FLOOR
The pelvic floor is made up of sheets of muscle within the pelvis that run from the tail bone to the pubic bone. The openings in the pelvic floor are the urethra, the anus and the vagina in the female pelvic floor, or the prostate gland in the male pelvic floor. Imagine it is a round trampette (mini trampoline). It is called the floor because it supports the entire abdominal contents.
The pelvic floor has a very important role in supporting the abdominal contents and controlling the sphincters of the urethra and anus. When you laugh, cough, sneeze or lift heavy items, these muscles automatically contract to prevent leakage without you even realising.
Sometimes these muscles become weak:
- following childbirth
- due to lack of exercise
- as a result of the menopause
- following pelvic surgery like hysterectomy or bladder repair
- due to straining to open your bowels
- as a result of being overweight
- after having a chronic cough
- with age
Exercising of the Pelvic Floor Muscle:
In Pilates we encourage the contraction of the pelvic floor with the deep abdominals (the transversus abdominis muscle) in preparation for all movements but especially those involving the curl up (lifting the head and shoulders) because this movement increases the pressure on the pelvic floor. To contract the pelvic floor tighten the muscle around your back passage (imagine you are trying not to pass wind) and then tighten the muscles around the front passage (imagine that you need a wee and you are trying to stop the passage of urine).
To test your pelvic floor sit on the toilet, start to pass urine then try and stop yourself mid-flow. Then take your time to relax and finish passing urine and make sure you completely empty your bladder. Try this when you have a really full bladder but not first thing in the morning when your urine is more concentrated.
Remember to engage the pelvic floor during your Pilates class and get into the habit of contracting your pelvic floor daily – 5-10 second holds and repeat 10 times. This can be done anywhere at any time. Make it a habit every time you:
- get to a red light if you do a lot of driving
- boil the kettle if you make tea or coffee regularly
- brush your teeth
I hope this gives you something to think about during your Pilates class this week.