Are you bearing down into you pelvic floor?
Here are ways you can tell and why it is important to know
Bearing down – Ideally when we exhale, our pelvic floor should gather in and up for support. This is the opposite of bearing down. When we bear down we create a lot of pressure in our pelvic floor, on our organs and in the abdominal cavity. To see whether you bear down try this.
Place your hand/fingers under your perineum (you can also sit on a big exercise ball or on a chair with a pool noodle)
When you cough do you feel pressure on your fingers/hand/ball/noodle? If so, you are bearing down.
Try this instead:
Tighten your lower abdominal area. If you aren’t sure what this feels like, try doing a “candle” breath which goes like this:
Pretend you have a birthday cake in front of you with a 1000 candles.
Inhale, then take a long exhale, gently blowing out the candles until your breath runs out.
See if you can feel your lower/deep abdominal area engage and pull in as you do this.
Now that you feel the lower abdominal area kick in, place your hand back under your perineum
Engage or tighten your lower abdominal area, then cough.
Do you feel the pressure under your hand where your perineum is?
**If you still feel pressure that is ok, it can take time and there are some other strategies to shift this pattern
SQUEEZING TOO HARD OR TOO OFTEN:
*It is important that you do not continue to hold tension in your lower abdominal area or continue to do a Kegel (which is a contraction the pelvic floor) all the time. It is vital to have a balance of contracting and relaxing and being able to vary the intensity of the squeeze or muscle engagement.
The contraction of the pelvic floor and lower abdominal area is simply for support during the effort phase of an activity. After that phase is over, it needs to relax or let go.
Similar to doing a work out exercise too much that your muscles get fatigued and tight, it is important that you allow the area to relax after the effort phase of the activity.
If you hold tension (Kegel) all the time, over time, it can become challenging to actually relax the muscles when you need to (such as with bowel movements, urination or participating in intimacy)
Read more about breath and the muscles that influence the pelvic floor here