YOGA & THE PELVIC FLOOR: PRESENTATION & Q&A W/LAUREN ANDERSON & JENNI RAWLINGS
**Don’t forget to read Lauren’s additional answers to questions in written form below the videos! We didn’t have enough time in the recorded webinar for her to answer all of the questions that were submitted, so we’ve included her supplemental answers to the Qs we didn’t get to down below the videos. :)
Yoga Alliance-registered yoga teachers are eligible to receive CE hours from the completion of this workshop.
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LAUREN’S SUPPLEMENTAL ANSWERS TO SUBMITTED QS (didn’t have time to address these in the webinar):
First and foremost, because I didn’t ever really say this- we are not licensed to treat or diagnose anyone with pelvic pain. If someone is consistently asking or talking about pain around the pelvic area, refer out. When in doubt, refer out. A great place to find someone in your area is here: https://pelvicguru.com/directory/
Do you need an internal exam to test the PF and who should do this?
IT DEPENDS (my favorite phrase) but usually to understand the complexity of each person's situation, yes a pelvic floor Physical Therapist/Physiotherapist (PFPT) or a woman’s health PT/Physio who is licensed to do internal work is your best bet. There are some who are only licensed to do external work and some that even do “virtual” visits and if you don’t have access to someone who can do internal they’d be another good option.
Can you strengthen the PF if you are already pregnant?
This question has to do with how we are functioning and whether or not we are experiencing symptoms. The following symptoms are surefire ways to know when someone needs to be referred to a PFPT: pain, peeing, pressure, prolapse symptoms (pelvic pain, uncomfortable pressure in the pelvic area, incontinence, and symptoms of prolapse). Many women will experience some symptoms (especially incontinence and pressure) during pregnancy but we can’t know if this is because the pregnancy itself (excess weight and pressure from this) or if it’s true weakening of the PF. Therefore, technically, yes you can strengthen it. However, the question is whether or not you need to- which would come as a directive from a PFPT.
Another thing to keep in mind is- the baby is expelled by the natural contractions of the uterus and the “relaxing” of the PF, so, this is usually the focus during the final stages of pregnancy.
Should we engage the PF all the time or should we let it relax? / Do yogis tend to engage/tighten the PF too much? Should we also be teaching ways to release it?
Just like any other muscles the PF has a full “range of motion”/excursion/ series of contraction and relaxation- so we need to encourage it to do both. I’m not sure if Yogi’s tend to tighten it too much (in comparison to other fitness folks)- I think that would depend on the style and how often the cue to contract or use the Bandhas occurs but I do believe we CAN over-cue it, just like we can over-cue any pose or muscular group/area of the body. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by how much to cue, take the pressure off yourself to cue it ALL THE TIME. Every once in a while, when you’re focusing on the core/PF might be a good option or when you are specifically cueing the bandhas (if you teach them).
Another thing to remember here is that the core, like other muscles works in conjunction with other muscles so we want to cue it in tandem with those muscles instead of trying to isolate it all the time- think about the core canister I talked about (pelvic floor, abdominal muscles, low back muscles, respiratory diaphragm) and see if you can cue it as a system.
Example: “standing up from a deep squat, can we exhale, engage the PF and squeeze the glutes”- that would be one way to cue with out over-cueing.
How much does PF engagement keep you safe/help you go deeper in postures?
This totally depends. In terms of safety, are you asking the students/clients to activate the other muscles that work with the pelvic floor or are you asking them to only engage the pelvic floor? If it’s the latter than probably not much- it would be like asking them to only engage the biceps in a handstand- that likely doesn’t do much but mildly protect the shoulder and the elbow.
In terms of going deeper into postures- I’m going to assume here. Let’s take trikonasana/triangle pose as our example. If you’re working on PF engagement here, think about the purpose of the engagement and what you want out of the pose. Are you trying to strengthen the PF? Are you trying to draw awareness to the core canister? Or are you trying to get them into a physically deeper (hand closer to the floor) version of triangle? Maybe it’s none of the above and you just want a “deeper” “more physically challenging” version of the pose.
Or, maybe it’s that you just want a deeper awareness in the pose; awareness of the breath, the movement of the pelvic floor, or their own experience in the pose.
It all has to do with intent and what you’re hoping your clients draw from that pose, in that moment, in that class.
When I’m cueing PF engagement it’s because I’m looking for those individuals to have awareness of the PF- to understand how it’s moving as they move.
So yes, it can but it depends on what deeper means.