Yoga to Strengthen your Perineum
From increasing your flexibility to reducing stress, there are many reasons why people practice the ancient art of yoga. As you may have learned in our previous article, (link to Yoga for Women article), the benefits of yoga go beyond physical strength and mental clarity. The wellness offered by this popular method of exercise reaches the health of your bladder and pelvic floor, as well. This is especially important for those that experience leaks, as yoga can actually help strengthen this part of your body and reduce your little bladder matters. Yes, you heard us right. This practice, originating in India over 5,000 years ago, is a useful tool in toning your core and pelvic floor, even your perineum, which in turn can work wonders for those who suffer from incontinence.
The perineum is the portion of the body in the pelvis occupied by urogenital passages and the rectum, bounded in front by the pubic arch. Working these muscles builds up the fibers and strengthens them to help prevent leaks. The perineum is a diamond shaped area on the interior surface of the core that includes the anus and vagina. For various reasons – childbirth, surgery, and aging – the perineum can become overstretched or weakened. One of the main results of this is incontinence, as this area is essential in the passage and control of urine flow. The lifting movements in particular yoga poses help engage your perineum and strengthen this crucial area. Pelvic floor exercises such as Mula Bandha and kegels, are now the first-line therapy for stress incontinence as the National Institute of Health even noted their support for these types of exercises as prevention of incontinence in women.
Bladder Friendly Yoga – Mula Bandha
One of the best ways to tone your pelvic floor using yoga is by practicing Mula Bandha. If you’ve ever participated in a class, you may have heard your instructor say, “Apply Mula Bandha” or “Apply the locks”. If you have, this may have fallen on deaf ears. If you haven’t, not to worry as an explanation is warranted either way. See, in Sanskrit, Mula means root, while Bandha refers to locking or binding. Putting the two together, Mula Bandha is a technique for containing and channeling the root place chakra, the lowest of the energy centers along the spine. Mula Bandha is associated with the center of the perineum and in order to do this pose, you must learn to activate it.
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Before we get into how you can get your Mula Bandha on, it’s essential to know a few key details about the practice. Unlike a traditional pose like downward dog, isolating the contractions in this area is quite difficult and therefore requires daily practice. Taking a slow and gradual approach is beneficial as it allows the muscles to strengthen at the same pace as the mental and spiritual growth. Also, as the muscles of the perineum work together, contracting one can trigger contractions in all the surrounding muscles. It’s also common to accidently tense your respiratory muscles as well. So remember, take it nice and easy and be patient, you’ll get the hang of it!
Mula Bandha consists of contracting or lifting up, the muscles of the pelvis. As the pelvic floor consists of muscular fibers, ligaments and connective tissue, each overlapping in complex ways and actually make up three levels that can be sensed and moved separately. In the most basic level, think of it as contracting your anus. However, as it’s much more complex than that. Here’s a beginner’s manual to the Mula Bandha as outlined by Yoga International.
Benefits beyond your bladder
The positive effects of Mula Bandha don’t stop at your pelvic floor and bladder. Rather, this posture can offer many other physical, mental and spiritual benefits. Let’s start with the physical. Mula Bandha has been attributed to the following:
- Lowering respiration rate
- Reducing blood pressure
- Improved digestion
- Urogenital functioning harmonized
- Regulating unstable menstrual cycles
- Relief of chronic pain in the vaginal and vulvar areas
- Strengthening your core and enabling you to hold postures longer
On a spiritual level, Mula Bandha can improve concentration and mental clarity. Mula Bandha has the effect of restraining energy at the perineum and in turn, offering a sense of stability and calm. Think of it as a radio dial that has been properly tuned so that your inner voice of consciousness can be heard more clearly. On the deepest level, practicing this posture means binding your outgoing senses, inward. As we typically look outwards for happiness – money, possessions, family and friends – Mula Bandha encourages finding bliss from within, which is longer lasting and most fulfilling.
Strike a pose to strengthen your perineum
Now that you have the Mula Bandha down, in theory of course, you can try a few other yoga poses that also target the pelvic floor and surrounding areas. With a stronger pelvic floor, you’re better off combatting pesky leaks and fending off potentially embarrassing situations. These poses are perfect for beginners and can be done at home, in the gym or out in nature.
Chair Pose (Utkatasana): Who needs to sit when you’ve got the chair pose? This one strengthens the lower body, including the ankles, calves and spine. Also stretches the shoulders and chest, stimulating the abdominal organs and diaphragm as well. Click the link for full instructions!
Reclining Bound Angle Pose (Supta Badha Konasana): What sounds like a mouthful, this pose actually softens the throat, helping release the visceral body. The tongue actually relates to the lower belly and pelvic organs. Feeling down into the pelvis to invite softening and receptivity can help this area relax, while increasing awareness of what’s going on in the pelvic floor. Click the link for full instructions!
Bound Angle Pose (Badha Konasana): This pose, using a rolled blanket, helps support the untucked position of the pelvis, the stability of the sacrum and engages the pelvic floor muscles. The Badha Konasana actually increases circulation to the pelvic floor organs as well as building tone and awareness in the different layers of the pelvis. If you’re looking to find your diamond, this is the pose for you. Click the link for full instructions!
The pelvic floor is an instrumental player in the health and function of your bladder. Specifically, the perineum and the dynamic layers of muscle that compromise the inner pelvis, which are active in the passage of urine and control of the bladder. If you do experience leaks, using trusted TENA products will help absorb them, but strengthening your perineum with yoga will isolate the muscle, only furthering your ability to reduce leaks caused by incontinence. And yoga not only helps to physically strengthen your muscles, it also improves the mind and lifts the spirit. To rid yourself of the worry and stresses associated with leaks, one requires clarity of mind and a positive outlook. And yoga can help get you there.
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