Archive for the ‘Pelvic Floor’ Category

10 May

Pelvic Power! How to Instantly Increase Strength and Decrease Tension in your Body.

Lee surfboard 


Why Do You Have a Pelvis?

Have you ever thought about why you have a pelvis?  Why is it shaped the way it is?  What does it do?  Well, this is the info for you.  Your Pelvis is the cornerstone of your body.  It is the highway intersection that translates and guides information from the upper body to the lower body and lower body to the upper body.  Just like this 3,000 year old arch below, your pelvis is as strong as it is balanced. 

Steph arch















What keeps your pelvis balanced?  It is the organization and coordination of the structure that keeps it balanced.  Just like the stones of this arch fit together with organization and the ability for slight movement when necessary.  If a structure is built too rigidly or too perfectly, then it may break if it is moved.  So, what you will learn is this course is the following;

– How the bones are organized in your pelvis for maximum strength and balance.

– Learn how your sacrum moves to decrease tension in your low back.

– Why your pelvis is shaped the way it is

– Why you have a pelvis, and what does it do.


How Your Bones in Your Pelvis are Organized


Your pelvis is organized into three bones; ileum, ischium and pubis.  These three bones come together at birth to make one bone called the coxal bone.  These two pelvic halves then connect at the pubic synthesis and at the sacrum.  The pelvis makes a bowl that supports and hold your organs.


Exercise #1: Touch one side of the pelvis at the following points; ASIS, PSIS, sacrum, Ishial tuberosities, pubic bone and hip socket.  Then notice the difference between the side you just touched and the side you did not touch.


Exercise #2:  Touch the ASIS while bending and extending the knees.  Do they move toward the center of the body as you bend your knees or away from center as you bend your knees?  They should move toward the center line of the body as you bend the knees.  This will decrease the tension in the pelvis system.  Try the opposite and notice an increase of muscular tension in the system.


How your Sacrum Moves to Support Your Low Back

The sacrum is the bone that lies between the two halves of the pelvis.  It is connected to the pelvis via the sacroiliac joint.  This joint is smooth on the sacrum side and rougher on the iliac side.  You can imagine that the two halves of the pelvis are covered in velvet holding a smooth beautiful diamond shaped gem.  Ahh, doesn’t that feel good.  Above your sacrum is your lumbar spine, and below your sacrum are the remnants of your tail, the coccyx bone.  If you go back to the picture of the arch on the first page, the sacrum of the arch is the center stone.  The sacrum is the ultimate bone to become aware of because it is the center piece that organizes forces from the ground up to the spine and from the spine to the legs.  If the sacrum is not in good order it could cause problems anywhere up or down the chain.


Exercise #3:  Touch the bottom of the sacrum.  Bend and extend the knees.  Does the sacrum move toward or away from your fingers as you bend the knees?  As you bend the knees, the bottom of the sacrum will move toward your fingers.  The top of your sacrum will move away from your finders.  This means your sacrum in nutating or nodding forward as you move.  This will decrease tension and increase function in your pelvis, hip and spine.  Try the opposite movement of your sacrum when you bend your knees and see how that feels in your low back.


Why is the Pelvis Shaped the Way it is?

Why is the pelvis shaped the way it is?  Anyone, anyone…Well, as we evolved from four legs to two, our pelvis’ became more bowl shaped in order to hold our organs.  It is also a more efficient wasyto hold an unborn child.  Unfortuantly, the problem to standing upright is that all your organs are resting on your pelvic floor.  So, in looking at how your pelvis is shaped and how it moves, it is important to look at the pelvic floor structure.  The pelvic floor is a combination of four muscles called the levator ani muscles.  The pelvic floor lies in between the ischial tuberosities, the pubic synthesis and the coccyx.  The pelvic floor needs to be trained to be dynamic.  A good pelvic floor will let things out and keep some things in.  To connect to the pelvic floor will give you power and support for your low back and pelvis.


Exercise #4:  Sitting on a chair.  Lean forward and back and notice that when you lean forward the sitbones move outward, and as you come back to sitting up the sitbones come underneath you.  Now try to initiate the moving forward and back by stretching and engaging the pelvic floor.  Try holding the pelvic floor and moving forward and back.  Does that increase or decrease the tension in your pelvis and back?


Exercise #5:  Place a rolled up towel or two Franklin balls under your pelvis.  Hold on to the sitbones and move them out and in with the pelvic floor.  Try holding one sitbone still and move the other sitbone out and in.  Do the other side.  Finish by doing both sitbones again to balance yourself.


Exercise #6:  Translate the moving of the pelvic floor to reformer legwork and to the GYROTONIC(R) tower arch and curl.  Notice how your pelvic floor is bouncy and fun like a trampoline.


More Detail on the Pelvic Floor


These are exercises that image all the touchable pelvic floor muscles that we have talked about.  Remember to touch one side of the pelvis, compare and do the other side of the pelvis.  Finish with a full and balanced exercise for the pelvic floor like sitting on a chair or plies in a wide second position.


1).  Piriformis – Touch the right side of the sacrum and approximate the right major trochanter.  Bend and extend the legs imaging the fibers stretching as you bend and contracting as you extend.


2).  Ishiococcygeus – Touch the right side of the sacrum and the right sitz bone.  Bend and extend the legs imaging the fibers stretching as you bend and contracting as you extend.


3).  Iliococcygeus – Touch the right side of the tail/sacrum to arch of the levator ani, approximately at the hip joint. Bend the knees and the fibers stretch and extend the knees the fibers contract.


4).  Pubococcygeus – Touch the right side of the tail/sacrum to the pubic bone, more in front of the iliococcygeus.  Bend the knees and the fibers extend and extend the knees the fibers contract.


The puborectalis did not get an exercise because there is not a practical way to touch that muscle in public.  It lies above the illiococcygeus and to the inside of the pubococcygeus surrounding the sphincters.  Not a great job, but somebody has to do it.

Now compare the two sides of the pelvis.  Stand on the right leg and balance, lift the arm if you dare.  Stand on the left leg and balance.  Do you notice a difference?  To finish, bend and extend both legs to feel all the pelvic floor fibers, or do the seated chair exercise.  Finally, take a walk around the room and feel how your pelvic floor moves and rebounds as you walk.  Enjoy!

11 October

The Pelvic Floor

The Core: Part Four – Week Five of Pilates

pelvic-floorView of the female pelvic floor from above

My first experience with pelvic floor exercises came when I was working with Alan Herdman in London.  Alan and I were in the middle of a side over exercise when a beautiful woman walked by and thanked Alan for teaching her about her pelvic floor because her client base had increased dramatically over the last month.  I, of course, had two questions, what did she do for a living and what did he teach her?  Alan’s answer to the first question: she was a high priced escort.  I was too embarrassed to ask the second question so I looked it up.

The pelvic floor is the group of muscles known as the levator ani, or in Latin, anus lifters.  It is composed of the puborectalis, pubococcygeus, iliococcygeus and the ischiococcygeus.  These muscles line the base of the pelvis from the pubic bone in the front to the inside of the tailbone and across the pelvis from one sit bone to the other.  The pelvic floor is important in maintaining the “fit” of the pelvis and sacrum puzzle pieces, supporting the bladder and reproductive organs and pressurizing the abdominal cavity.  This pressure supports the low back but is only beneficial when all members of the pelvic floor are working together harmoniously.  As mention in the first article on the core, the members of the core are the transversus abdominus, multifidi, pelvic floor and diaphragm.  When these muscles are imbalanced the system is forced to compensate and this has far reaching consequences for the low back.

The pubococcygeus is the most anterior of these muscles.  It is important for sexual function and is sometimes injured during childbirth without knowing it.  Dr. Kegel designed the exercise in which the subject engages the anterior pelvic floor for a given length of time and then releases it.  While a Kegel or “bracing” may be an acceptable way to sensate or find the anterior pelvic floor musculature, it is not recommended for daily use.  This is for two reasons:
1). The Kegel does not address the breath.  Since the diaphragm and pelvic floor work together during a breath, if the breath is held while engaging the pelvic floor the diaphragm will not be able to participate fully.  This disrupts the harmonious functioning between the members of the core.
2).  Integrating the breath underlines the kinesthetic relationship between the top and bottom of the core and incorporating the breath is more likely to bring about using the pelvic floor in everyday activities more quickly and effectively in your life.

The posterior pelvic floor or pubrectalis tends to be ignored in comparison to the anterior pelvic floor.  However, it can sustain significant injuries (it has been known to rip during childbirth) and its function is also important to low back health and function.  Imagine the pelvic floor like the foundation of a building.  If there is not support for the backside of the building, pretty soon what is above will soon start to slide down.

The iliococcygeus and ischiococcygeus travel from the outer bones of the pelvis to the coccyx, the evolutional remnants of a tail at the very end of the spine.  These two muscles tip the base of the spine backward, in direct opposition to the muscles of the back.  The pelvic floor is locked in a dance of stabilization with the muscles of the spine.

The four muscles of the pelvic floor must be constant and dynamically active to support a pain free loading of the pelvis.  When healthy, the pelvis has remarkable mechanical abilities to transfer weight and movement seamlessly up to the trunk and down to the feet.

Exercises for the Pelvic Floor
1. Diamond Sit – Seated on the floor or hard bench/chair.  Visualize the four corners of the pelvis (pubic bone, coccyx, left and right sit bones) creating the shape of a diamond on the floor or chair.  In between those four points lies your pelvic floor.  If you would like, you can place a soft, 4-5 inch diameter ball in between the four points to better feel your pelvic floor.  As you inhale, visualize the diaphragm and pelvic floor moving downward.  As you exhale, visualize the diaphragm and pelvic floor moving upward.  Visualizations you can use are your pelvic floor moving with the quality of a jellyfish, or lava lamp, or any image that conjures something strong and supple without too much tension.
After you have done this exercise for awhile, notice that as you engage your pelvic floor on the exhale, you may also feel your abdominals engage.  The research scientists Sapsford and Hodges, that we have discussed before, did a study that showed the pubococcygeus engages with the transversus abdominis.  Can you feel that connection?
2. Sitting and Standing – This is an exercise I learned from Eric Franklin.  Seated on a chair, notice the two sit bones touching the chair.  As you lean forward the sit bones move apart, and as you move back to a seated position, the sit bones move together.  Inhale forward and exhale back.
After you have done that for awhile, lean forward with sit bones apart, move forward off the chair onto your legs, bring the sit bones together and you will stand.  Reverse the sequence to sit.  Lowering yourself to the chair, the sit bones will spread, touch the chair with your pelvis and go back to sitting the sit bones will move back together.  Bonus if you write me in a comment and can tell me when in this exercise the pelvic floor is eccentrically(stretching) and concentrically(engaging) working, and with what breath pattern.  Let’s see how many of you read this!


Franklin, Eric.  Pelvic Power. Princeton Book Company. Hightstown, NJ.

Lee, Diane.  The Pelvic Girdle. Harcourt Publishers Limitied.
Edinburgh, UK. 2000.

Sapsford R.R, Hodges P.W., Richardson C.A., Cooper D.H., Markwell S,
Jull G.A.  Co-activation of the abdominal and pelvic floor muscles
during voluntary exercise.  Neurophysiologey and Urodynamics 2001:20.
Pg. 31-42.