When we talk about engaging the pelvic floor muscles with our mama clients and brand new #MamaReset members, we tend to get a whole lot of blank stares. Or faces with a slight confused and far off look in their eyes.
You know, the look that says, “Am I doing it?” Is my pelvic floor engaging?
Confusion about the pelvic floor muscles is common. There can be a major brain-muscle disconnect for many reasons, the most obvious being that these are internal muscles, unlike those we can simply see and move like the arm or leg.
The other reason we have a brain-pelvis disconnect? Most of us don’t have a super intimate relationship with our vagina. It’s not something we learned a lot about when we were growing up and the topic can be a bit taboo.
Well, we’re breaking the taboo and sharing some of our favorite, albeit completely bizarre cues that are actually super helpful to deepen your awareness of what’s happening inside your vagina.
When it comes to having more control over your pelvic floor muscles, it’s all about finding a cue that works for you, but also understanding how these muscles work.
The pelvic floor muscles need to be able to fully relax and let go AS WELL as fully engage and contract. Imagine if you tried to do a biceps curl but never let your arm lengthen and extend between curls. Impossible even to imagine, right?
But traditional “kegels” do just this. Kegels have traditionally focused on the tightening/lifting part of pelvic floor movement, while ignoring the lengthen/release that needs to happen between muscular contractions. It is quite common for people to have excessive tension in their pelvic floor due to stress and postural habits. During pregnancy, these postural habits can be worsened due to the extra weight your core muscles are trying to support.
A great place to start to deepen your awareness of the pelvic floor is breathing. The pelvic floor muscles should naturally soften and descend on an inhale and lift and draw upward on the exhale.
Start by lying on your back or your side or resting in child’s pose to become aware of the natural movement of these muscles.
This takes time and patience. Plus, we’re not talking about a squat here — the movement of the pelvic floor muscles is small and subtle.
As you re-train your core, just breathing may not do it for you. Make sure your brain come along for the ride by using a visual cue to help engage the pelvic floor muscles.
Pick a cue, any cue! Here are some of our favourite, and funniest, pelvic floor cues to help you get started.
Although it may seem just a little weird to think of the inside of your vagina as a gelatinous sea creature that stings, the way a jellyfish moves through the water is a perfect image for the natural movement of the pelvic floor.
As you inhale allow your pelvic floor muscles to relax by imagining them expanding and blooming open as a jellyfish does. On your exhale draw your pelvic floor muscles in and up as a jellyfish does to propel itself upward.
2. Wink your Clit.
Try saying that 10 times fast! As funny as it may sound this is a really effective cue for engaging your pelvic floor muscles, especially the fibres around the urethra (the pee hole). As you inhale allow your pelvic floor muscles to feel soft and relaxed, imagining the clitoris and tailbone opening away from each other like an accordion. On the exhale think of winking your clitoris toward your tailbone without actually moving your exterior muscles.
Who doesn’t love a big ol’ thick milkshake? Well, think of your favorite flavour and imagine a straw at the vaginal opening. Yup, totally weird but stay with us! As you exhale think of slowing sucking a thick milkshake up through the straw. You should feel a slight tightening and lift inside your vagina. As you inhale, slowly let the milkshake go back down the straw.
4. Blossom your Butt Cheeks.
The pelvic floor muscles actually wrap around the urethra, the vagina, AND the anus, so engaging and releasing both the front and the back of the pelvic floor is important. As you inhale, think of your butt cheeks blossoming open like a flower. The back part of the pelvic floor often holds excessive tension, especially if you tend to tuck your bum under when you stand or sit, or if you have digestive issues and get a little, er, backed up. Try this cue while standing, and focus your weight over the front and arch of your foot to un-tuck your butt and feel it “blossom!”
This has become one of the most common cues used to help women engage their pelvic floor muscles. Think of a lovely blueberry resting right at the vaginal opening and as you exhale draw the blueberry gently up into the vagina…being careful not to squish it! As you inhale, slowly open to lower the blueberry and place it back down. If a blueberry doesn’t resonate with you pick another small fruit — a cherry, grape or even a bean. Coffee bean, preferably.
6. Melting butter.
Many of our mama clients have a hard time letting go and relaxing the pelvic floor muscles. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in lifting and tightening, and we get too tight all the time, especially when we’re stressed and multi-tasking. Melting is another great cue to help encourage the softening and releasing phase of the core breath. As you inhale, imagine the pelvic floor muscles melting like warm butter. Allow the butter to melt completely, in all directions.
Imagine a small cloth satchel or coin purse with a drawstring and think about how the top of the satchel draws together and tightens as you pull on the strings. Now, imagine the pelvic floor muscles drawing together and being pulled upward as you exhale, “pulling on the strings.”
Which cue is most helpful to you? We’d love to connect with you on Instagram and hear which cue you liked — or laughed at — most!