Breathwork is more than 'airy fairy' stuff. It has amazing benefits to both strengthen our pelvic floor and to also teach it to relax. Pelvic floor health is so much more than 'Kegel exercises'.
The body has many diaphragms beginning with the arches of the feet, pelvic floor, respiratory diaphragm, the throat, roof of the mouth and base of the skull. If you stand up and close your eyes (to feel), as you take a breath in through the nose you may start to notice a sensation of being heavier to the floor. This is because as you breath in your diaphragms are relaxing and doming down. As you breath out you may notice the sensation of ‘lifting’ away from the floor as the diaphragms dome up. Lets take this to some breath work for pelvic floor health.
Lower Pelvic Floor
Laying supported and elevated as necessary (*note you should feel comfortable with the chest above the pelvis). *Later stage pregnancies see below for QUADRUPED options as this may feel better to explore.
Have the knees bent with feet hip width apart and place the fingers lightly tips on the sit bones, located just at the base of the glutes (the base of your pelvis). With your tongue placed gently in the roof of your mouth, take a breath in through the nose visualizing moving the breath between the sit bones and feeling them expand (this doming sensation is the bowl of the pelvic floor relaxing). Gently breathe out through the mouth visualizing the sit bones coming together
Repeat desired number of times.
Upper Pelvic Floor
In the same position as above, place the finger tips on the hip bones and about in inch in, you may feel a band of muscle moving under the fingers in particular as you breath out.
With your tongue placed gently in the roof of your mouth, take a breath in through the nose visualizing moving the breath between the hip bones and feeling them expand. Gently breathe out through the mouth visualizing the hip bones drawing closer together (*here is where you may feel that muscle contract, your lower transverse or deep abdominal support.)
In the same position as the above 2, place the hands around the lower portion of your ribcage, with the thumb towards the back. With your tongue placed gently in the roof of your mouth, take a breath in through the nose feeling the ribcage expand into your hands. It can be nice to take some time here and add unilateral (left right breathing) as this can benefit the muscles and flexibility of the ribcage.
Gently breathe out through the mouth feeling the ribcage/waist narrow away from the hands as you gently bring the ribcage to the centre of the body.
Bringing it all together
In the same supine position, place your hands on the lower abdomen.
With your tongue placed gently in the roof of your mouth, take a breath in through the nose feeling the abdomen expand into your hands.
Gently breathe out through the mouth allowing the abdominals to relax towards the spine without pressing. Towards the end of the breath out, gently drawl the abdominals towards the spine, followed by connecting the sit bones, hip bones and lower ribcage
*In essence this last stage it is drawing those bony landmarks of the pelvis to the centre of the abdomen. Without force or tension, using the breath.
Adding some movement to add to your breath for Pelvic Floor health
Pelvic tilts are a really lovely way to combine you breathing with movement of the pelvis and pelvic floor, along with stretching and mobilizing the lumbar spine. *These can be done with a soft 20cm (deflated) ball behind the pelvis, or a rolled up towel which will offer your body feedback and a little more freedom to move the pelvic area. In a supine position as above hands on the pelvis OR in a Quadruped position. Legs, glutes, hips and belly button softly relaxed.
With your tongue placed gently in the roof of your mouth, take a breath in through the nose.
Gently start to breathe out through the mouth and as you do allow the leg-bones to gently internally rotate to facilitate flexion (not your knees knocking together) as you go into your pelvic curl. Pay attention to the connection of the big toe. Tilt your tailbone towards your pubic bone, making sure you are not squeezing your bottom or your legs or your belly. Just allow the pelvic bone to rock backwards.
Start to breathe in through your nose as you rock your pelvis back to neutral and then reach the pubic bone forward toward the feet allowing the leg-bones to gently externally rotate to facilitate extension. Allow the whole spine to move, allow the gentle nod of the skull to happen in response to the pelvic movement.
Breathwork in Quadruped
If you are in the later stages of being pregnant ALL of the above breath work can also be done in a comfortable quadruped position (*hands and knees) or over a fit ball or other comfortable base that allows you to rest on the forearms should your writs, arms or shoulder not comfortable tolerate being on your hands.
Please consult with your GP before beginning any form of exercise. Please use your own judgment with regards to your body's needs as to the suitability of any movement.
Pilates 44 Studio (Simmone Cser)
Photo credit physio-pedia