I vividly remember the first time my friend’s mother told us to stop making her laugh or she would pee herself.
I had only recently got my head around the perceived horror of my monthly bleed and now I find out that it is somehow normal to lose control of your bladder with age?
WTF – what revelations could life hold for me next?

My pelvic floor quest

From this time on, I was determined this was not going to be my destiny. But what did I need to do to prevent it?
The answers I found are based on my own personal journey. Let me say from the start that I am not a trained pelvic floor specialist. By the same token I hope you’ll find my advice more useful than the help I got from my GP. All I got was a sympathetic smile and the word ‘Kegel’,  I got myself out of there, knowing that Google was more likely to give me better considered answers than this throwaway response.  
I have done the hours of research so you do not have to!

Over the last 10 years I have read all I can about pelvic floor function and watched numerous videos and talks. I have been to a pelvic floor physiotherapist, tried Alexander Technique, Cranial Osteopathy and even had a go with those insertable weights. I have gained a lot of knowledge, found some answers and ruled out many more suggested options.

I am still on my journey to perfect pelvic floor function, but I do believe I now have enough information and some of the tools to get me where I want to go.

Here is what I now know.

Let’s start with the facts

The pelvic floor muscles are a like a sling. They help to hold in place the organs of the pelvic area in both men and women. They run from your tailbone to your pubic bone and they connect from one hip to the other.

Now let’s consider the signs These are those unpleasant things that may alert you to a weakened pelvic floor.

  • Leaking urine when coughing, laughing, sneezing, jumping, lifting, walking up stairs, running, exercising or simply for what seems like no reason at all
  • Accidentally passing wind – a menopause favorite
  • Stool stains on underwear – a great motivator at least!
  • Not being able to get to the toilet in time
  • Difficulty emptying the bladder or bowel
  • Varicose veins appearing on the testicles, penis, vagina or vulva
  • Hemorrhoids – joy of joys, not!
  • Pelvic pain

The question many people disagree on is, “can or should this area be exercised at all?”

One school of thought is that, like the diaphragm, these muscles work quietly in the background in a healthy functioning body and do not need any training. I tend to lean towards this belief but wonder if any of us in the modern world have a fully functioning, healthy body.

For the past few years I have been avidly following Katie Bowman, an American biomechanist whose recent book, Move your DNA, is a look at how we move. More importantly, perhaps, it is a look at how we are not moving in our modern lives.

Katie is quite damming of the old theories and the information given to women since the 1950s that centres on doing Kegel exercises. (I hope my GP is reading this bit!)

She can explain it far better than I can but only ever strengthening a single muscle repeatedly without ever stretching it seems highly unlikely to prove effective.

A lack of movement, shallow breathing, poor posture and crazy footwear are just a few of the things that could be affecting your pelvic floor function right now. With this modern day reality in mind I decided to look into the exercise option. Is there an exercise routine out there that can help me?

One Saturday night (yep, I don’t have much of a life) I was surfing the internet, following one health blog to the next, when I came across Pelfix. This is a 10 hour exercise course given over four weeks by Livia Nemeth. I read through the website and decided to call her in for a meeting (there are some perks in running a health centre).

I liked Livia instantly: she was one of those relaxed and healthy looking individuals and what she said made a lot of sense to me. We set a date and Shine hosted its first Pelvic Floor Training course with myself and just one other pregnant client in attendance.

What happens at Pelvic Floor Training?

For the curious here is how four week course went.

  • Week 1

There will always be laughter in this type of course, there just has to be. Livia’s relaxed method of teaching brings out all sorts of stories and questions. Your case history and all personal information is provided privately and Livia communicates with each participant via email during the week.

The first week is all about the anus. After learning many new skills and lots of conversations around men and haemorrhoids, as they too need a strong pelvic floor, we finished off by learning how to blink our anus.

Just try saying that out loud and you’ll have an idea of how much laughing we did.

  • Week 2

Shock! Horror! please stop showing me the scary prolapse photos.

Lulled into a false sense of security with our new pelvic floor skills, Livia then talks us through the effects of prolapse. The images alone motivate us all to keep up with the training. I had no idea the body could do that and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

This week we focussed on closing our vaginas. I learnt that mine seems to close like a pair of hair straightening irons. I’m happy with that.

  • Week 3

The urethra: I’m not sure mine is fully awake but I am assured that with continued practice, it will come to the party.

Each week our new found skills lead us on to more challenging tasks than the week before. The challenges do have their rewards: an increase in orgasmic pleasure in the bedroom has me (and my partner) interested and fully engaged.
  • Week 4

We have been promised that, by the end of this class, we will be able to pull our anus one direction and our vagina in the opposite direction at the same time.

Ha! Impossible I had thought, but actually we both manage to do this fairly easily. Or could it be we are just imagining it? It does help to visualise what you are doing internally. I would say I am 99% sure I can do this now.

After each class Livia emails us a new exercise routine that we are instructed to do once a day. I can say now that I absolutely do know how to engage my pelvic floor, something I had failed to be confident in even after ten years of regular Pilates. I am not as disciplined as I should be but I am confident I am on the right path.

Is there life without leaks?

I still believe good posture and varied movement are the keys to a healthy functioning body, but until I have cracked that one, I now have the skills to keep me on the straight and narrow.

More importantly I am no longer fearful of the seemingly inevitable leakage issue that so many people experience. I know that this topic is just a tiny part of our health but, for me, it is a very central one, quite literally.

One other thing I noticed after each class was what seemed to be an improvement in my posture. My very core seemed to want to hold me up in a healthier stronger way. Was it the exercises, or was it just my new found connection to this very private and sometimes forgotten inner muscle group?

Shine will continue to host Pelvic Floor Training courses throughout the year, if you are interested, please email practice manager Sophie to discuss availability. Classes are limited to 3 people and we will aim to accommodate people’s schedules.

For further information about Livia and her Pelfix training course, she can be contacted here.

You can buy Katie Bowman’s Move your DNA here and there are some great explanations of pelvic floor alignment here and here.

Check them out and keep laughing!

By Carla Octigan

Original article: http://www.shineholistic.co.uk/blog/my-pelvic-floor-passion/

 

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