By Cassie Shortsleeve; Photography by Pexels
You’re probably doing kegels wrong and it could be causing pelvic damage.
We always hear that kegels are the best way to strengthen your pelvic floor – muscles supporting your uterus, bladder, small intestine and rectum – and fend off issues like incontinence (losing control over your bladder). But unfortunately, women usually work out the wrong muscle group, which can lead to even more problems than not doing them at all, says David Shusterman, the founder of NY Urology.
The Two Most Common Kegel Mistakes
Many women are squeezing too hard, says Belisa Vranich, a clinical psychologist with an interest in pelvic floor health and breathing. It makes sense: If you think your muscles are loose and you work them out hard, you’ll strengthen them, right? The issue: Pelvic floor problems don’t always stem from too-weak muscles. “It’s usually that the muscles are out of balance, uncontrolled or contracted,” she says. And experts say reverse kegels (details on how to do them below), which require a different technique, are just as important for strengthening your pelvic floor as regular ones.
Another big no-no many women make: Doing kegels with constricted muscles. This is like doing a curl where you’re just pulsing, explains Vranich. “You have to learn to go the full range,” she says. Otherwise, you may worsen the problem by making the muscles more rigid – which could exacerbate incontinence and increase intra-abdominal pressure instead of strengthening your muscles. Great.
The RIGHT Way to Do Kegels
Step number one in correcting your kegel form is actually finding your pelvic floor muscles. A quick and dirty way to do it is to stop your flow of urine – those are the muscles we’re talking about. (Just don’t do this too often, as it’s not good for bladder health, says Shusterman.)
Then try relaxing the pelvic floor and elongating the muscles by adding reverse kegels to your regular kegels. Reverse kegels promote flexibility and reduce tension, says Isa Herrera, physical therapist, certified strength and conditioning coach, author, and creator of PelvicPainRelief.com. The key to achieving this relaxed feeling is a fine line, though, as you don’t want to “bear down” (which is what you do when you poop), says Vranich.
Instead, start by getting your breath right, says Vranich. As you do a regular kegel, exhale – contracting your pelvic floor, squeezing your belly in. You’ll likely feel more muscles engage (like those in your lower abs). Now, the reverse kegel: As you inhale, bring your awareness to your pelvic floor using visualisation. “As you inhale, the diaphragm goes down and pelvic floor muscles should also go down to relax,” says Hererra. Yoga poses that allow for the sit bones to widen (child’s pose and downward dog) can help this, too, she notes.
Looking for more? Here’s a list of other pelvic issues you should look out for.
This article was originally published on www.womenshealthmag.com