The pelvic floor is an important, and often ignored structure in the human body. Tension held in other parts of the body are often also held in the pelvic floor without us realizing it. This can lead to frustrating or embarrassing complaints like back, hip, and pelvic pain, incontinence, sexual dysfunction, and core weakness. So how do you relax your pelvic floor?

The job of the pelvic floor

Before diving into strategies to relax your pelvic floor, let’s review what the job of the pelvic floor is.

The pelvic floor muscles make up a hammock of sorts, seated between the tailbone and the pelvic bone, within the pelvis. These muscles support the bowel and bladder, as well as uterus and vagina. Every body has a pelvic floor, and every pelvic floor can hold tension. 

Weak pelvic floor muscles can result in core weakness and incontinence, while a tense or over-toned pelvic floor can cause pain and constipation. Both can be categorized as pelvic floor dysfunction, where the muscles of the pelvic floor are unable to relax and coordinate to support proper function. Pelvic floor dysfunction can cause pain and weakness anywhere from the thighs through the abdomen and back.

As simple as breathing – the #1 way to relax your pelvic floor at home

While pelvic floor dysfunction will be most effectively treated under the care of a pelvic floor physical therapist, there are things you can do at home to relax your pelvic floor and support the normal functioning of the pelvic floor.

The simplest way to relax your pelvic floor at home is to master diaphragmatic breathing.

Martial artists and singers are likely familiar with diaphragmatic breathing, but it may seem like a foreign concept to many of us. Breathing is typically something we do involuntarily, without much thought at all.

The diaphragm is a muscle that sits below the lung and hearts, attached to the sternum. It is thin and dome shaped, and activates automatically, contracting as the body inhales and exhales. To the bottom, the diaphragm is attached to the pelvic floor, which relaxes on a deep inhale and returns to place on the exhale.

The goal of diaphragmatic breathing is to allow for that relaxation, gently stretching the pelvic floor and releasing tension.

Those who have experienced or been present for childbirth may recall hearing instructions for the birthing parent to focus on deep breathing and low vocalizations. Fast, shallow breathing and the high pitched sounds that often accompany do not allow the pelvic floor to relax fully, which can for obvious reasons, make labor and delivery more complicated.

Learn diaphragmatic breathing

Begin by lying on your back on a flat surface, in a comfortable, neutral position. 

Slowly take a deep breath through your nose, and allow your belly and ribs to flare. You may want to place your hands on your belly or just between your hips to feel the movement. Visualize your pelvic floor relaxing, and try to feel the difference in your body as those muscles shift.

Hold the breath for a second, then exhale slowly and gently through your mouth. Feel the air leaving your pelvic floor, belly, and chest, and visualize your pelvic floor muscles contracting.

Repeat 10 times, twice a day – or whenever you feel your body is tense and in need of a moment of calm. 

Diaphragmatic breathing is beneficial for the pelvic floor and body as a whole, and a practice of mindfulness can assist in releasing tension throughout the body. Once you have mastered identifying the feeling of the diaphragm expanding and pelvic floor relaxing, you can practice diaphragmatic breathing sitting or standing if you find that it calms your body.

Treating pelvic floor dysfunction

Breathing exercises that help relax your pelvic floor are a simple way to release tension at home and develop strategies for calming and supporting the body. This is a valuable step towards acknowledging and addressing a common issue.

Practicing diaphragmatic breathing is not a substitution for receiving treatment from an experienced pelvic floor physical therapist if you are experiencing the symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction. If you are experiencing pain, incontinence, or sexual dysfunction, practice diaphragmatic breathing, but also make a call to your local pelvic floor physical therapist and schedule an evaluation.

Body Restoration Physical Therapy specializes in pelvic floor physical therapy, and is conveniently located in Roslyn Heights, New York. Contact us to learn more about our Long Island pelvic floor physical therapy location, and how pelvic floor physical therapy can improve your quality of life.