Lots of doctors, midwives and birth professionals often recommend women do Kegel (a.k.a. the pelvic floor, the PF, the pubococcygeus muscle or the PC muscle) exercises during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Here are a few compelling reasons why they do so.
- Kegels can help shorten labor
- Kegels can prevent incontinence
- Kegels can prevent or correct vaginal or uterine prolapse
- Kegels can increase sexual pleasure
Sounds like a good deal right? Flex that little PC muscle and get lots of great benefits! What woman doesn’t want a shorter labor or better sex? And the exercise is easy to do.
Just a quick run down of the PC muscle. It is a muscle that runs from your pubic bone to your tail bone, and supports the pelvis organs. Both men and women have it. And, it is the muscle you use to stop the flow of urine on the toilet. No one can see you flexing your Kegel muscle, as it is inside of your body. If you are squeezing your butt-cheeks together, or tightening your abdomen, you are using the wrong muscles. You may want to practice in the bathroom at first to try to get a feel for which muscle you are using.
So, you use this muscle everyday in the bathroom. Easy. But here’s the hard part. We often get stuck with just the flex and release method of exercising this important muscle. Do you need a Kegel exercise device? Nope! Those device are completely unnecessary to building a strong pelvic floor. The manufacturers of those devices claim that you can’t build biceps without lifting weights, however, I think body builders and martial artists that use isometric exercises would take exception to that.
Below are a few more advanced exercises that I often share with my students. These exercises will help build strength, tone and elasticity. All without the use of any Kegel exercise device.
The Elevator: Think of your pelvic floor as an elevator. Contract it to three levels. The basement is relaxation. Start at the basement and gradually contract to the first floor… the second… the third. Then gradually let the elevator come down again, slowly to the second floor… the first floor, and relax at the basement.
Leg Cross: Sit on the floor with your legs out in front of you. Contract the pelvic floor strongly and hold. While maintaining the tension, slowly cross your ankles in front of you. Don’t release yet, keep holding strong. Now slowly un-cross your ankles, stretch your legs back out, and release the pelvic floor, relaxing completely.
The Wave: Sit on a low stool or chair, knees apart, leaning forward with your elbows resting on your knees. Contract the area around your vagina and urethra. Add the anus. Release in the opposite direction. Repeat, making the contractions wave-like. This will help build elasticity.
These aren’t your mother-in-law’s Kegels. Obviously you can’t do these exercises in the car at a stop light or while waiting in line at the bank. But they are simple and, coupled with other regular exercises, will help with all those items listed above and more.