Written by Kirsten Hober, PT, DPT
If you are experiencing pelvic, abdominal, hip, and pelvic floor dysfunction these 5 exercises can help your body relax, allowing more oxygen to flow to loosen tight muscles and fascia that may be causing your pain.
1.) Diaphragmatic breathing
Deep breathing is an excellent way to calm the nervous system and relax. In particular, diaphragmatic breathing is a specific pattern of breathing closely related to the functioning of the pelvic floor and enables relaxation of those muscles.
The diaphragm is a dome-shaped muscle that lies below the rib cage. As the diaphragm contracts, it expands downwards and resulting pressure pulls air into the lungs. This downward pressure and expansion of the muscle also results in descending movement upon our internal organs. As this happens, the pelvic floor muscles receive a gentle stretch and expansion as well, facilitating a relaxation of those muscles. This pelvic floor expansion can be felt upon inhale with a diaphragmatic breath.
To begin, lie on your back in a comfortable position with one hand over your chest and one hand over your abdomen just below the rib cage. Breathing in through your nose, let the air fill your belly and feel the expansion of your abdomen as your hand rises. Meanwhile the hand that is placed over your chest should remain still and you should not feel any chest expansion upon the inhale. As you exhale, feel the abdomen drop back down towards your spine. Continue to breathe, feeling your belly rise and fall with each inhale and exhale. Performing this exercise for 5-10 minutes per day will help allow the pelvic floor muscles to relax.
Once you have become comfortable with diaphragmatic breathing while lying on your back, you may also try the same techniques for this breathing pattern in sitting, and even standing.
Incorporating diaphragmatic breathing into the following four pelvic floor exercises will increase your awareness and ability to fully relax these muscles.
2.) Deep Squat
Bringing your legs wider than your hips, squat down towards the ground until a stretch is felt through your legs and you reach the deepest comfortable position. You may choose to hold onto a stable surface for support, or you can bring your arms inside your legs as a counterbalance. Hold this pose for 30 seconds as you breathe deeply into the belly using the diaphragmatic breathing. Try to feel the expansion of the pelvic floor muscles in this open position. Repeat 5 times throughout the course of the day.
3.) Happy Baby
Lie on your back on a comfortable surface. Bend your knees and lift your legs off the ground, gripping the outside of your feet or your ankles with your hands as you separate your legs wider than your torso. Remain in this posture for 30 seconds and breathe deeply using diaphragmatic breathing to expand the belly. As you inhale feel the expansion of the pelvic floor muscles. Repeat 3-5 times throughout the day.
4.) Child’s Pose
Begin by kneeling on the ground on a comfortable surface. Separate your knees so that they are open wider than your torso. Bend forward at the hips and bring your forehead to rest on the ground or a pillow. You can either reach your arms forward in front of your head or back to rest by your hips. Bring your hips back so that they are resting by your heels. Relax into this position, letting your body fall towards the ground, releasing all tension in your body. Once you feel relaxed fully, focus on diaphragmatic breathing. Allow your belly to expand into the space between your knees as you inhale. Feel your pelvic floor muscles relax and melt towards your hips and feet as you inhale. Remain in this position for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Repeat 3-5 times per day.
5.) Legs Up Wall
Sit down with your hip 5-6 inches from a wall. Lie down and swing your legs up onto the wall so that your heels are resting supported against the wall and your legs are relaxed. You may choose to let your legs fall out to the sides so that you feel a stretch through the inner thighs or you can allow your legs to remain closer together. Once you have found a comfortable position, focus on diaphragmatic breathing. Allow your inhale to increase the expansion of your pelvic floor muscles as your belly expands. Breathe deeply in this position for 3-5 minutes.
Watch Kirsten demonstrate these exercises below.