Kegels are fabulous for improving pelvic floor strength, however, understanding how pelvic and abdominal anatomy works, breathing correctly, and a holistic approach yields better results.
Our pelvic floor and core area contain complex muscle systems that work together to maintain a natural pressure of containment so that all the organs housed there (bladder, bowel and uterus) stay secure and sustain healthy function.
This pressure goes unnoticed until the alignment or posture shifts where it will feel noticeably downward, heavy or full. Prolonged or complicated birth, intense lifting and straining, a sedentary lifestyle and ageing are all ways this could occur.
American gynaecologist Arnold Henry Kegel created this excellent foundation for non-surgical incontinence treatment in the late 1940s, where his exercises —“doing your Kegels” — became synonymous with preventing and treating prolapse and incontinence.
Regular Kegels can strengthen weak pelvic floor muscles and prevent weakening, but squeezing and lifting isn’t enough and doing them too much or incorrectly can cause as many issues.
The way Kegels are taught and performed often neglects key components for safely working the area. Kegels should be only one part of maintaining pelvic function or overcoming incontinence and prolapse.
Muscle tone is regulated by brain signals to the nerves that instruct the muscle to contract or release. With any focused movement, the muscle relaxation action is equally as crucial as contraction.
When pelvic muscles are overworked or activated incorrectly, they can become hypertonic (tense and unable to relax), triggering similar symptoms to a weak pelvic floor.
The supportive muscles of the pelvic anatomy need to be working with the abdominal muscles, and the idea is to mindfully lift and hold, as well as relax on both the inhale or exhale. The relaxation part should be a controlled movement with your breath, not suddenly collapsing.
It’s common to brace for core activation, believing it will support our spine or make it feel easier by engaging other body parts, but that’s the overworking and hypertonicity potential mentioned above.
Only focusing on Kegels doesn’t address the cause of any symptoms, and there are other lifestyle adjustments we can make to ensure optimal pelvic health or overcome prolapse and incontinence.
As part of the Whole Woman approach we incorporate at The Mat App, we also encourage looking at diet, stress management, breath attention and posture in all daily activities as part of a pelvic health program.
Not sure if you’re activating your pelvic floor or core correctly? Talk to any of our instructors. We’re here to help.