What all women need to know to feel empowered, sexy, and healthy!
“If we are all to sit in a circle and confess our sins, we would laugh at each other for lack of originality.” ~ Kalil Gibran
My first year of yoga in my early 20s opened me wide. I started having some deep releases and profound experiences. I allowed myself to deeply process some things in those classes, big emotional releases were encouraged, and the space was safe. Hip openers and pelvis focused-postures in particular were where I was really experiencing the embodied emotions coming up.
I decided to go see an alternative therapist, and re-create the experiences I was having in yoga class, in her office. She let me intuitively lead my therapy, adding in techniques that deepened my healing. I discovered that I had been burying down in my pelvis many stories of sexual trespass.
It all made sense! Once I saw these shameful memories, and brought them to light, I was able to go somewhere inside myself that I had been avoiding – I had opened my pandora’s box.
These experiences awakened a deep desire in me to heal myself, and my body showed me that I was onto something profound, that I could also help others heal.
I passionately applied myself to this calling, and became a vedic thai yoga bodyworker, yoga therapist, doula, pelvic floor specialist, and sensuality, empowerment & sexuality coach for women.
For the next 15 years, I dedicated myself to the study of this way of healing through embodying and integrating the stuff we hold in our bodies, specifically our pelvis – which leads to a freer heart and mind.
The Pelvic Floor is a very important, sacred piece of a woman’s anatomy. The whole body’s healthy functioning depends on it, including physical, emotional, mental, sexual, and hormonal balance.
- Would you like to have good, pain-free SEX? The best sex of your life with multiple, full body orgasms? Look to the Pelvic Floor.
- Would you like to have easier, near symptom free PMS and Menstruation? Look to the Pelvic Floor.
- Would you like to have a smooth labor and birth, with less trauma and risk? Look to the Pelvic Floor.
- Would you like to process buried grief, trauma, shame, fear, regret, or other emotional triggers? Look to the Pelvic Floor!
- Would you like to get rid of spine, hip, leg or abdominal pain that baffles all the doctors? Look to the Pelvic Floor!!
- Would you like to have healthy functioning organs, like bladder, uterus, and digestive tract? LOOK TO THE PELVIC FLOOR.
- Would you like to embolden and empower yourself, and embody your life fully, to never question your unique creative power and personal medicine again? LOOK TO THE PELVIC FLOOR!!
The Pelvic Floor has been a focus for me for many years, maybe an obsession! After very deep work within myself and after many hours in dedicated professional trainings, layers of understanding have emerged, and I have come to know this incredible place as MAGIC.
There is an intricate balance which is nicely illustrated by this drawing, of the natural alignment of the organs within the Female Pelvis. They all sit on top of one another, support one another, and are also supported by ligaments and soft tissues, and the layers of the pelvic floor musculature. The angle of the pelvis, how your stand or sit, affects the load on the PF and the bones of the pelvis itself.
Much of our lives are spent in an unnatural posterior pelvic tilt (tucking the tailbone under). This happens almost anytime we sit, and especially if you sit unconsciously, leaning back into the chair or car seat back support. This shortens, and sometimes atrophies the muscles of the PF. As one of my teachers, Leslie Howard says, “We’re a nation of mother tuckers!” This illustration above is, unfortunately, displaying said “tuck”.
Tucking is bad for many reasons, but namely because it creates TENSION. Unfortunately, we also tend to tuck (read: build unnecessary tension) when we pull in our abdomens as women, to appear more svelte and thin. Many workout classes, including yoga and pilates, over-cue abdominal and PF engagement, which as you will read below, makes the situation worse for women with hypertonic pelvic floors.
As a yoga teacher of 15 years, I have heard the cue “tuck your pelvis” more times than I can count. It’s anatomically lazy to say, ineffective at engaging proper core stability, and totally exacerbates PF dysfunction for about half the female population. STOP SAYING IT!
We also harass the PF when we push to poop, or when we hold in our pee and our farts. Gah! I said farts.
Layer #1 – Bulbo Spongeas (Cavernosus): Forms a figure 8 around urethral, vaginal & anal sphincter. Sphincters at rest are contracted.
(That means you don’t have to push or contract to eliminate – it’s a RELEASE that opens the sphincter.)
Layer #2 – Superficial Transverse Perineal: The muscle laterally connecting sitting bones.
(Layer 1 & 2 are undifferentiated at the perineum. Home of the First Chakra, Mula Bandha, and proper Keigel initiation.)
Layer #3 – Levator Ani: Like a horseshoe between the pubic symphysis. A group of muscles that “lift the ass”.
(Attaches to the sacrum, so if it’s tight it will pull the sacrum out of alignment, which affects the SI joint. Home of the Second Chakra.)
When in neutral alignment, more of the weight of the pelvic organs, and all the organs above them, is shared by the bony structure of the pelvis, specifically the pubic bone, and the pelvic floor muscles. The bones are evolved to support the majority of the weight of the body. However, when our posture fails us, this weight gets distributed entirely to the soft tissues like the Pelvic Floor, for example, in a tucked posterior pelvis. This “Load” on the tissues creates tension and holding patterns, which can become chronic.
Whenever there is chronic soft tissue tension, there is a resulting weakening. This is exasperated by any loads placed on the muscles while in poor alignment. (Think about the pressures and loads generated by the force of running, or being pregnant.)
Weakness comes in two forms, generally. First, weakness from too much tone or tension, which happens more than you would think! Constant tucking shortens the PF muscles, and also requires them to stay firm to support the weight above. Add on the loads of terrible habits like sucking in the belly, bearing down while eliminating, clenching the inner thighs, glutes and hell, everything “down there” – and you’ve got yourself a dysfunction called Hypertonicity. This can also be caused by physical pelvic trauma, like a car accident; physical/emotional trauma, like rape; or anxiety, stress and failure to process emotions. (and too many, or improper Kiegels!)
Hypertonic: cannot let go: too much tone.
- Urge incontinence – I have to go NOW! Nervy feeling
- Vulvadinia – pain of vulva
- Vaginismus – vaginal opening shrinks
- Likenschlorosis- skin condition, scarring, autoimmune disease
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), constipation/diarrhea
- Systitus: bladder infections, inability to relax
- Painful intercourse
PS: You have to release your hypertension before you can fix anything else.
On the other end of the spectrum, weak PF muscles can also be the product of a lack of tone, or Hypotonicity. This is common for women who are in their postnatal period, as the PF muscles just birthed a baby. As women age, the production of estrogen decreases, and this can cause a lack of muscle tone all over the body, but is especially noted in the PF. Often times finding these muscles to strengthen them is like searching in the dark for a black jelly bean, and can be frustrating for women. There are specific therapies that you can do, movements with very precise muscular targets, and order. Seek out a PF Yoga Therapist or Movement Therapist!
Hypotonic – cannot contract: lack of tone.
- Stress incontinence – 25-45% of women experience this!
- Prolapse of an organ, uterus most common, but bladder and rectum also prolapse.
- Back pain, destabilization of the core and abdomen
- Lack of connection with her creative feminine range
- Flat feet and/or sagging glutes often indicate lack of tone
- Lack of sensation during intercourse
Not all women should kiegel. Not all women have weak pelvic floors due to lack of tone – we have established this. However, there is no differentiation or examination of tone when keigels are prescribed by most health care professionals. There is also very rarely any actual instruction on how to engage properly, how to build strength using the whole group of synergistic muscle groups, and when enough is enough. Most women just grip whatever they can find and squeeze everything! This doesn’t produce pelvic floor strength, because your big muscles, like your glutes like to help – a lot. Also the more superficial PF muscles, like layer 1 & 2 are generally easier to find, so often they get recruited first, which isn’t actually strengthening the right layer, AND it’s training the sphincters to contract when they shouldn’t. Moral of the story – know your pelvis.
SIDE NOTE: Frankly, not all men should kiegel either! Hello – the number one killer for men in America is prostate cancer. This is hugely impacted by a high level of hypertonicity, which means lack of blood, lymph, and energetic flow. The best thing you can do for your man is learn to give him prostate massages. Bonus – he might learn to love them, because man can orgasm from prostate stimulation, if you do it jut right 😉 If you want to learn, or have me lead a mini-course for you and your girlfriends, contact me!
A note on Mula Bandha:
Mula Bandha is a very slight muscular ‘drawing up’ of the perineum, between a woman’s vagina and anus. I have several problems with the teaching and use of it in mainstream yoga.
- It is an energetic ‘lock’ used in yoga, bringing energy upwards, stimulating the Kundalini to rise. Mula Bandha was originally designed for men’s bodies, but it continues to be taught with this language to everyone, even though the male perineum is at least twice as long as a female’s.
- It was not designed to combine with asana, it was a stand alone practice, performed with skill that took years of practice to master, in seated meditation. K. Pattabhi Jois was first to combine Mula Bandha with asana, and when he was questioned about where he got this methodology and information, apparently the secret book was eaten by mice…
- If Mula Bandha is done by someone who is Hypertonic, then there most likely will be continued and potentially serious damage done.
- It’s very difficult to master, even after years of practice, the glutes want to fire, the breath won’t descend back down on inhale, the upward movement of energy isn’t directed or harnessed properly – leaving a lot of spacey yogis ‘all blissed out’ but completely ungrounded.
Needless to say, the energy here in the pelvis is very potent, and has the power to affect the psyche on very deep levels, for better or worse. When properly taught, with correct therapeutic assessment of the state of the PF muscles in the student – Mula Bandha could be a life changing, affirming, empowering and strength-giving practice for the lucky student to receive such instruction. In my opinion, this should only be done with a master practitioner, in a trusting and private setting, with several sessions to build awareness, skill and strength.
The SOAP BOX portion of this article will now conclude.
The Female Pelvis is the Home of the First and Second Chakras
In Eastern traditions, the first and second layers of the pelvic floor are associated with the root chakra – where we tend to literally “hold” fears, specifically fears around primary instincts such as our health, our family’s safety, and our financial security. It is a “stress container,” in that it’s where we process the emotion and house our fight or flight reactions. You know that feeling when you get cut off by someone while driving, get bad news, or are about to go into a high stress situation? This can cause you to clench your pelvic floor (i.e., it feels like an acid pit in your stomach).
Just above the first chakra, in the third layer of the pelvic floor, and pelvic bowl cavity, is the second chakra. This is associated with our sexuality, emotional range, creative sphere and sacred space. The burying of emotions and the lack of self-love eventually leads to a dulling of the sensation here, which can affect everything about how we express ourselves in the upper chakras. Our innate sexual, creative, intuitive and sensitive nature is like a muscle, use it or lose it. This manifests in the physical as pelvic pain, menstruation dysfunction, painful/sensation-less sex, endometriosis and more.
- If you’ve never had your pelvic floor released, consider it. This is also called de-armoring. Hunt down an Integrative Structural Specialist, Sexologist, Sexologiacal Bodyworker, or Internal PF Therapist. This can dramatically improve your connection with your PF on many levels. I do this deep work with women in the container of a long-term supportive alliance, which I believe to be far superior to a one-off visit. Often it takes time to develop the level of trust and safety that many pelvises need to release.
- Do some internal work on your own. Sensual Internal Pussy Massage is a beautiful way for you to explore your PF, your pleasure, and ultimately yourself. Enjoy this free gift! An e-book I created to help empower you on this journey to knowing yourself.
- Seek out a Pelvic Floor Yoga Therapist. There is a lot of healing that you can accomplish in private sessions, using asana, breathing techniques, visualizations and meditations, and exercises. I am happy to work with clients in person and online!
- Check out Abdominal Massage. This is a very old practice, found in indigenous folk medicine all over the planet. The abdomen, belly and pelvis are inextricably connected, and have a wellspring of potential for unlocking your healing capacity. Maya Abdominal Massage, Vedic Thai Yoga Bodywork, Ayurveda, and Chinese Medicine all revere the abdomen as the center of everything. I have trained extensively in this work and I tell you, it’s one of my top self-care techniques.
- Squat More! No, not with weights, or against a wall – the way our ancestors did, and many eastern cultures still do. Spending time in a squat is highly beneficial for the entire digestive/elimination process, as well as very good for creating healthy tone in the PF. Extra credit: get a stool for your feet in your bathroom, so you can ‘squat on the toilet’. The Squatty Potty is a great option.
- Don’t tolerate painful sex. If sex is painful, something’s not right. Have a discussion with your partner, do some of these suggestions, figure it out! It continues to relay bad messages to the body and brain when this intimate space is disregarded. Try SUPER slow, no friction sex. Use your man’s hard cock as a magic wand to gently melt the tension points by breathing into the area until it releases. Once you feel it soften, and the pain subside, re-pattern the point with a little healthy engagement by pushing into his cock with your deep pelvic muscles.
Adore Your Pelvic Floor – Viva la Pelvis!