The pelvic floor is a group of muscles and ligaments that support the bladder, uterus (womb) and bowel.
The openings from these organs, the urethra from the bladder, the vagina from the uterus and the anus from the bowel pass through the pelvic floor. The pelvic floor muscles attach to your pubic bone at the front and the tail bone at the back and from the base of your pelvis.
What do the pelvic floor muscles do?
When the pelvic floor is strong, it supports the pelvic organs to prevent
problems such as:
incontinence (the involuntary loss of urine or faeces)
prolapse (lack of support) of the bladder, uterus and bowel. The pelvic floor muscles also help you to control bladder and bowel function, such as allowing you to 'hold on' until an appropriate time and place.
Like other muscle groups in the body, the pelvic floor has a range of movement. When we contract, or tighten the pelvic floor, it should lift and when we let go of the contraction the muscles should return to their resting position.
When muscles are not able to let go, this can also lead to pelvic dysfunction such as
pain, bladder irritation and constipation.
Muscles function better when they are allowed a break. They need to relax to
allow good blood flow, bringing oxygen and nutrient supplies.
But how exactly do you relax your pelvic floor?
First start by controlling your breathing:
Adopt a comfortable position, either lying with your knees bent or reclined sitting. Place one hand on your breastbone and one on your tummy. Gently breathe in and imagine the air filling your stomach so that your lower hand gently rises.
Focus on breathing into your tummy so that your lower hand rises and falls, and your upper hand stays relatively still. Imagine your whole body as a canister that you are filling with air.
To allow us much air in as possible, your tummy must gently expand as your ribs widen. Use your imagination to visualise the bones moving creating more space for the pelvic floor muscles to lengthen during inhalation. As you breathe out these areas gentle recoil back to guide the air back out.
By Laura Swarbrick