Years ago when I first began this journey as a yoga student, my teacher, Nishit Patel, pointed out that most folks knew more about how their cars functioned than about how their bodies worked. Almost 20 years later, with mind-body movement practices becoming increasingly popular and accessible in the modern world, I think that this lack of self-knowledge is changing… just not fast enough.
While yoga, Pilates and meditation studios seem to be popping up like crazy in big cities and small towns around the world, they still remain outnumbered by the fast-paced, high intensity movement forms that ask the body to move quickly and aggressively. These endorphin highs are very satisfying and fun, but when not coupled with a mindful practice that helps us slow down, notice our breath and give us time to catch up with how we are moving while we are in the midst of a movement, they can be very harmful. When we are not conscious of how we are breathing and moving a simple sit up can, over time, go from being a good way to strengthen the abdomen and stabilize the spine to a good way to strain the neck, lower back, hips and disrupt the function of the abdominal organs. This last visceral issue is one that, as a woman, concerns me a great deal.
Our studio has been opened for 6 months now and in this time dozens of young active women have shared that they are having issues controlling their bladder while laughing, coughing, sneezing or jumping. This issue in women’s health is multi-faceted. There is just not enough information easily available in the main stream media and in my recent visit to the GYN I was shocked to see that the information being offered was an advertisement for a pharmaceutical drug. This lack of information coupled with the many high-intensity workouts targeting core strength, with little to no mention of the breath and how to manage intra-abdominal pressure possibly explains why so many women are suffering a lack of control.
Abdominal strength is really all about managing the pressure in the abdomen. Think about it, the contents in the abdomen are gelatinous and floating around in fluid, when we apply pressure on them we need to make sure that they are being displaced in the right way so that they don’t get pushed down into the pelvic floor. If we allow ourselves to slow down a bit and train our bodies on a daily basis, even if only for a few minutes a day, over time it will become an unconscious pattern that will kick in when we’re kicking, punching and jumping in a high-paced workout.
Well, maybe this issue is creeping its way into the mainstream media, just as I’m sitting here writing this, an ad for a pad for bladder protection pops up…. Ummmm, how about an ad that teaches a simple breathing exercise! OK, so here it is ladies:
Keep in mind that this is an exploration of movement. Rather trying to do lots of reps, slow down, notice what you feel and listen to your hands and your body… Let me know how it goes!
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
1. Lie on your back with your knees bent. Notice your head, shoulders/ rib area and pelvis are heavily resting on the floor.
2. Place your hands on your tummy. One hand on the lower abdomen and the other above on the ribs.
3. Relax your jaw and your mouth.
4. Inhale slowly, Exhale slowly. Observe your breath as if you don’t know what to expect, without controlling, squeezing or doing. Set your intention to simply observe how the breath is moving in and out while SUGGESTING to your breath that it slow down and become longer and fuller.
5. Notice that as you inhale, your abdomen and rib cage will expand and as you SLOWLY exhale ALL OF THE AIR OUT, notice that your ribs will naturally draw in towards your center.
6. As you are exhaling bring one leg in towards your chest. Notice the direction of the abdominal wall; is it drawing in to your center as a result of your exhalation or is it bulging out into your hands?
7. Inhale as you hold your leg in the air.
8. Exhale as you lower your leg back down. Again notice what direction the abdominal wall is moving towards.
9. Alternate legs.
Key things to notice:
~ If you find that the abdomen is expanding out/ bulging out into your hands, or you notice the dome lifting in line with your belly button you need to exhale as if you are trying to fog a glass, with a ‘HA’ sound and limit the range of movement to one you can manage the pressure in with your breath.
For more insight and ways to improve managing the pressure in your abdomen and either preventing or reversing the loss of bladder control check out my upcoming workshop:The Power of Your Flower
Friday, Feb. 3, 2017
$19 for members
@ Polestar Pilates Biscayne: 5050 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, FL. 33137 | 305-762-6476