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Look after your pelvic floor

We talk openly about toning up our abs and arms, so why not our pelvic floors? Understanding and looking after our pelvic zone is fundamental to our self-care and not just during pregnancy but at all stages of life. Men can also benefit from strengthening the pelvic floor muscles as they support the bladder and bowel and affect sexual function.  

But what and where is the pelvic floor and how do you hone its athletic performance? We ask Marta Gomes MSc, our expert physio practitioner at Six Senses Douro Valley. Check out her step-by-step video guide here and read our Q&A summary below.

What is the pelvic floor?

The pelvic zone is formed by bones, organs, muscles, and ligaments. The pelvic floor is the ground zero of our core, so it is influenced by our diaphragm, abdominal muscles, and back muscles. The pelvic floor plays an important role in supporting all internal organs and viscera within our abdominal cavity. Poor nutrition or digestion, bloated abdominals, impaired breathing, or a bad posture may cause disorders in this area and eventually overwhelm the pelvic floor muscles, as they become less able to relax and contract. That’s why pelvic floor strengthening is so important, not only for pregnant women or mothers but women of all ages, and men too!

How do you find pelvic floor muscles?

First, you need to look at this area. Secondly, you need to feel where the muscles are. Women can do this by placing a finger in a horizontal position below their pelvic floor and then squeezing their muscles as if stopping the flow of urine.  

How do you strengthen your pelvic floor?

This starts with your breathing. Put one hand on your chest, and the other on your belly. Breathe in and out and become aware of whether your chest or belly is rising more. If you are breathing only into your upper chest without using your diaphragm properly, it could cause tenderness or pain in the neck or shoulders. Over time, this causes tension in your pelvic floor.

Next, place two hands above your navel and breathe in deeply, feeling your belly rise, then breathe out feeling it fall. Count in for three seconds, hold for three seconds and exhale for three seconds. After a minute or two, you will start to feel relaxed.

Once you have mastered diaphragm breathing, you can move to pelvic floor breathing to relax any tension and improve its strength. For muscles to function correctly it’s important to know how to relax them and in this area, it is also key to libido and lubrication.

The best position to practice pelvic floor breathing is lying down (as demonstrated in the video above). Place your hands under your navel, in your lower pelvis. Breathe deeply into your hands, filling the space, hold for three seconds and release the air with a sigh. You should feel your pelvic floor contract.  

With your next breath in, concentrate your attention on your pelvic floor and filling the entire space with air. You should feel your pelvic floor moving down in the direction of your feet. Then exhale again with a sigh, feeling the pelvic floor rise and contract.

Try to practice pelvic floor breathing for five minutes per day.

More help and consultations are available at Six Senses Douro Valley Spa involving integrative knowledge about the body, health and well-being working on the three pillars of breathing, nutrition, and movement.

These include therapeutic massage, lymphatic drainage, individual Pilates classes, and visceral manipulation therapy. The latter uses very gentle techniques to help your organs release and move more optimally, reducing irritation of the nerves to certain areas elsewhere, which can result in referred pain. Once normal movement has been restored, the blood supply will improve along with the root cause of any pain. This therapy should only be carried out by a qualified practitioner.

For more information, please email Marta Gomes: marta@martagomessaude.pt


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