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Flex Appeal

Jul 152013

Having lunch with a friend the other day, a brief but embarrassing incident reminded me of the importance of paying attention to an often-overlooked part of our bodies. I’m sure my friend won’t mind me recounting that a particularly violent fit of belly laughs caused her to literally pee herself at the table. This all-too common problem (especially for women over 40) is often caused by weak pelvic floor muscles – but if this sometimes happens to you, there are some simple exercises you can try before rushing out to buy that packet of disposable pants!
The muscles of the pelvic floor are some of the most important to keep strong, for both men and women. In this week’s blog, I’ll be focusing on pelvic floor exercises for women, before turning my attention to the guys next week.
So firstly, what exactly is the pelvic floor, and what does it do? Well, our pelvic floor (or PC) muscles form a ‘sling’ across the floor of the pelvis. They support the bladder, uterus and rectum, providing stability to these organs, and muscular tone within the vaginal walls. They also help to close the bladder and back passage and protect them from sudden increases in abdominal pressures due to sneezing, coughing, and yep, you guessed it, laughing too hard.
Because we’re not taught to activate these muscles nearly enough, they often suffer from weakness – especially during and after pregnancy, after menopause, gynaecological surgery, heavy lifting, weight gain, or even something like a chronic cough. Most often, sudden unexpected urine leakage is a sign of pelvic floor weakness, especially during moments of pressure on the abdomen. If you also need to pee more, but with less volume, or even have heightened period pain or lower back ache, these symptoms can also be indicators that you need to work on strengthening this area.
So how to do it? Begin in a lying position to relieve the weight of your internal organs and gravity, then close off and draw up the muscles around the vagina (as if you’re stopping yourself from urinating). You may also feel the muscles in your rectum closing off. Draw up the entire area strongly and hold for 5-10 seconds. You may instinctively feel like holding your breath, but keep breathing while you do this. After a few seconds, fully relax the entire area. Repeat 5-10 times in a row. Next, do 5-10 short, fast and strong contractions, breathing all the while, and remembering to relax again afterwards. Following this, focus on the rear pelvic floor muscles around the anus, tightening and drawing them up as if you’re holding onto wind. Hold for 5-10 seconds and then relax again. You may tire quickly at first, but don’t give up! From lying down, you can progress to standing exercises, training your PC muscles in their slightly more difficult ‘fully loaded’ position.
Aim to do these ‘flexing’ exercises at least daily, and more than once a day if you can manage it. The beauty of this practice is that it can be done anywhere, without anyone even realising. It might be helpful at first to use coloured stickers next to the kitchen sink or bathroom mirror to trigger a reminder. Over time, you’ll find that your PC muscles become stronger, enabling you to laugh, cough or sneeze without any embarrassing side-effects.
Even more excitingly, activating this area can tone and strengthen the vaginal wall, stimulate the sacral chakra, open up the energetic pathways in our bodies and lead to more intense orgasms – and that, dear readers, is great news for both our physical health, and for our sex lives!
In love and light,

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