Exercise, Women's Health

Tight, Painful Hips? Physical and/or Metaphysical Origin

Did you know that experiencing pain or tightness in the hips or even sciatica issues could relate to an imbalanced pelvic floor? The pelvic floor muscles are the hammock shaped muscles that attach from the pubic bone at the front of the pelvis and the tailbone at the back of the pelvis. A strong and healthy pelvic floor supports our reproductive organs, urinary continence, bowel health and sexual well-being. However, when the muscles are too tight or too weak, our body responds in many ways including incontinence, painful sex, back, hip, and pelvic floor pain, etc. Many factors influence the health of the pelvic floor. They can be affected by pregnancy, childbirth, ageing, hormonal changes, collagen levels, diet, not breathing deeply enough, anterior/posterior pelvic tilts and poor form with lifting. Hip pain is one way the body responds to the pelvic floor imbalance. Our pelvic floor muscles attach directly to the hip muscles via the Obturator Internus. This muscle helps maintain bowel and bladder control and is a power player in sexual function. With pelvic floor muscle imbalance, you could feel deep hip pain within the pelvis, in the lower abdomen, or present as sciatica.

But did you also know that physical dysfunction in a woman’s body can often be metaphysical in origin? We have an energetic system in the body made up of chakras or energy wheels. When balanced these chakras flow abundantly, when imbalanced, energy can slow or even be blocked. They each affect different aspects of our life and can manifest in many different ways. The lower two chakras manifest in the lower pelvic areas which can affect the surrounding areas.

The pelvic floor is located at the base or root of the body, near the muladhara or root chakra. The root chakra relates to all the foundation areas in our lives like our home, family and the community. If you are struggling to have your basic needs met, feelings of disempowerment, or replaying childhood narratives. These patterns can be deep seeded and cause an energy imbalance in the chakra creating anxiety and depression which leads to rapid shallow breathing. This energy wheel is linked to our “fight or flight” response in the body. Anxious, rapid, shallow breathing can lead to an impact on the pelvic floor, causing disfunction. A balanced root chakra feels like a sense of ease, less stress, regularity in metabolism and bowels, and feeling secure in life.

The swadhisthana or sacral chakra sets right at the womb center relating to issues around our relationships with others, money, addictions, and sex. This energetic wheel is the seat of Shakti or our divine feminine energy. The sacral chakra correlates with the birth of all things. This is our creative, joyful, confident energy that lies within us. An imbalanced sacral chakra can result from sexual shame, trauma, poor self-image, emotional states, culture, and history of abuse. This can all build up and become heavy in the body, creating dysfunction in the pelvis, back and hips, guilt, shame, lack of creativity, lack of libido, lack of motivation, not feeling loved. A balanced sacral chakra will re empower and ignite the powerful divine feminine goddess energy within. It enables us to live our best lives, speaking our truths, and living authentically by our highest selves.

Always consult a physician if you are experiencing pain. If you are having pelvic floor issues, always consult an OB/GYN or a Women’s Health Physical Therapist who can diagnose and treat the issue. Along with physical therapy, a regular yoga pratice is a powerful way to connect the physical and energetic systems to bring divine alignment to the body. Making sure to keep your body alignment, head over shoulders, shoulders over hips, this will ensure your body is functioning at its best. Proper alignment keeps the surrounding systems and muscles in balance and happy. Yoga creates a stable environment to focus on healing the physical while also healing the mind and soul. While, you might think you are just having a normal ache or pain, it could be a response to something more intense happening in the body and might be from an intense experience in your life.

Exercise, Mom Wellness, Women's Health

Yoga and the Pelvic Floor

Yoga has a great way of bringing self-awareness to our bodies. But did you know that a mind-body connection is key to having optimal pelvic floor health? Just as we need a mind-body connection for exercise and yoga, we also need it for our pelvic floor, so it makes sense yoga would be the best place to become more mindful of this practice. Strong pelvic muscles aren’t just built by doing your occasional Kegels and along with strength, you need stability and softening, the trifecta of a healthy pelvic floor. Based on research, yoga is considered a great option for strengthening, softening and stabilizing these muscles.

Since the pelvic floor isn’t widely talked about, let’s talk about the specifics.

What is the pelvic floor?

The pelvic floor refers to all of the muscles at the base of the pelvis, creating a hammock shape. These muscles cover the opening of pelvic boney structures, supporting our reproductive organs, bowel and urinary organs. These muscles might be small, but they have some big jobs to excel at keeping our bodies functioning well. The pelvic floor is the foundation to our whole-body structure. So, any issue with the pelvic floor can cause some major problems to our bodies.

Pelvic Floor Jobs:

  • Provides support for pelvic organs
  • Facilitates birth
  • Maintains optimal intra-abdominal pressure
  • Assists in stabilizing the body, along with, the core, hip and back muscles
  • Plays an integral role in sexual health

Pelvic Floor Issues/Disorders:

  • Urinary Incontinence
  • Fecal Incontinence
  • Pelvic organ prolapse
  • Pelvic spasms
  • Painful Intercourse

Causes of PF Issues/Disorders:

  • Pregnancy
  • Vaginal childbirth
  • Obesity
  • Constant Coughing
  • Some surgeries that might require cutting
  • Lower levels of oestrogen after menopause

Nearly 24 percent of US women are affected with one or more pelvic floor disorders, according to research done by National Institutes of Health It also showed that the frequency of pelvic floor disorders increases with age, affecting more than 40 percent of women from 60-79, and about 50 percent of women 80 years of age and older. The prevalence of pelvic floor disorders increases with the number of times a woman has given birth.

The American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology (AJOG) conducted a research study to assess the changes a yoga class could make to a group of women with urinary incontinence in 3 months. In that 3 months, there was a 76% decrease in the frequency of their incontinence and a 61% decrease in stress incontinence. There are definitely no losses in adding yoga to your new routine.

So, in other words, any woman can be affected by a pelvic floor disorder but there are ways you can be proactive in prevention and recovery.

Do you think you might have an issue?

Talk to your provider or a physical therapist who specializes in the pelvic floor, to assist in diagnosing and treating any pelvic issues you might be experiencing.

Exercise! The pelvic floor is the foundation of our center so a full body workout is indirectly, positively, affecting the pelvic floor.

Add in some yoga, core, pelvic floor, and breathing exercises to your health regimen. Most of the appropriate exercises can be done daily in the luxury of your own home.

Yogic Practices that can help Strengthen, Stabilize and Soften the Pelvic Floor

Diaphragmatic Breathing

The diaphragm and the pelvic floor are synergists, they work together with inhalation and exhalation. They are both hammock like muscles that do the same thing at the same time. So with inhalation, the diaphragm and the pelvic floor both drop creating space in both the lungs and the pelvis. With exhalation these muscles lift with the vacuum effect that takes place in the body.

These two important muscles work best when aligned properly over each other. So this is where posture becomes important and where yoga can help. Tadasana (Mountain pose) with head over shoulders, shoulders over hips, hips over feet with pelvis slightly tucked in a neutral position. Or you can try lying with knees bent and a neutral pelvis slightly tucked.

  • Breathing deep and slow, focusing on filling up the lower part of the lungs (belly will expand but it’s not the focus here) immediately triggers the vagas nerve which is directly related to our parasympathetic nervous system. Then exhale completely drawing the navel toward the spine to help empty completely. This can be done at any time of the day just to relax and center yourself.
  • You can take it a step further, try connecting with the pelvic floor and doing a kegel (a gentle squeezing/lifting action of the pelvic floor as if you were trying to stop urinating) on the exhale. With a kegel, you want to isolate the pelvic floor and keep glutes, hip and legs soft.
  • Once you have felt that contraction, reverse it and try contracting a kegel on the inhale, much harder.
    • Note that kegels should be practiced for the fast twitch muscles and the endurance muscles within the pelvic floor so you can try doing a lift and release with diaphragmatic breathing like explained, lift and release 1 second hold to 1 second full release while breathing normally, and a lift and release building up to 10 second hold while breathing normally.

Diaphragmatic breathing can…

  • improve the pelvic floor musculature.
  • Lower stress responses associated with “fight or flight” mechanism
  • Improves heart rate variability- which is the measurement of variations between beat-to-beat intervals.
  • This is great to do anytime, anywhere for any amount of emotion, anxiety, stress, or irritability- because life.

Bandha Engagement

Bandhas are energy locks that are engaged during certain asanas or postures. Bandhas help regulate and flow energy through the body. There are three bandhas that can be engaged together or independently from one another, the Mula Bandha or root lock, Uddiyana Bandha or abdominal lock, and Jalandhara Bandha or throat lock. When all three are engaged it is the Maha Bandha

Muscularly, the Mula Bandha or Root lock, is similar to a kegel with a more complete engagement of the pelvic floor. Kegels focus primarily on the muscles that control urination. This certain engagement, draws the levator ani muscle up into the body for added strength and toning of the pelvic floor. A yoga class can keep the mula bandha engaged the whole time with a sequence focused on postures that energetically engage this lock. The poses below focus on this.

Engaging the Uddiyana Bandha or the abdominal lock, takes your pelvic floor engagement to another level by involving the core. Having strong deep core muscles (transverse abdominis muscles) also helps to improve pelvic floor health.

To engage the Uddiyana Bandha…

  • Start with diaphragmatic breathing.
  • On the exhale, engage those deep core muscles by drawing them in like a corset, simultaneously, engaging the mula bandha, lifting the pelvic floor. You can place your hands on your belly to help feel the contraction of the transverse abdominis muscles. Your belly should not buldge here, it should draw in creating a more flat contraction.

The asanas listed below are postures that will help you put this all into action. If this all seems overwhelming to do on your own, start with one thing at a time. Master it and move forward. I also plan on starting a weekly Women’s Health Yoga class that will focus on all of this. The postures listed below are a good place to start that will naturally engage this area.

Strengthening Poses

  • Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
  • Wheel Pose (Urdhva Dhanurasana or Chakrasana)
  • Tree Pose (Vrksasana)
  • Cat Pose (Marjaryasana)

Stabilizing Poses

  • Chair Pose (Utkanasana)
  • Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
  • Bird Dog Pose (Dandayamana Bharmanasana)
  • Extended hand to big toe Pose (Utthita Hasta Padangustasana)

Softening or Stretching Poses

  • Malasana (Squat) Pose
  • Child Pose (Balasana)
  • Lunge Pose (Anjaneyasana)
  • Cow Pose (Bitilasana)

The pelvic floor is widely unknown yet such an important part of keeping our bodies healthy and running at optimal performance. It is never too late to start!

Resources:

www.nih.gov

https://www.ajog.org/article/S0002-9378(18)30915-3/fulltext

Exercise, Self Care

Weightlifting and Yoga; Yin and Yang for Your Fitness Routine

Being a Personal Trainer and a Yoga Teacher, it’s obvious my fitness routine is includes both, weights and yoga. Weightlifting and Yoga are like Yin and Yang, balancing the body in every way it needs. Strength training helps breakdown and build muscle while yoga speeds up muscle recovery and improves flexibility, all the while, connecting to your highest self. Strength training is the outer work while yoga is the inner work. This yummy duo packs a punch when it comes to improving your fitness progress. I believe in balance and these are two tools you don’t want to miss out on your own Balancebuilding® journey. Adding a mix of both to your weekly fitness routine has endless benefits but here’s a few reasons why you should be considering it.

Stretching and increasing flexibility..

  • Increases endurance and strength
  • Improves balance and flexibility
  • Improves body posture

Improving these things will…

  • Encourage muscle growth
  • Improve muscle efficiency
  • Improve circulation
  • Decrease lactic acid build up
  • Reduce muscle recovery time

And not to mention, you get all of the other blissful benefits of yoga including…

  • Improve respiration, energy and vitality
  • Encourage relaxation
  • Decreasing stress
  • Reduction in inflammation
  • Promote sleep quality
  • Relieve anxiety
  • Can reduce chronic pain

Yoga could be the key to unlocking the extra nudge in progress you need. Start out by trying a yoga class on YouTube or find a local class you enjoy. There is so much more to gain than lose from just trying!

*If you are local to me, in Morgantown, WV, I teach a biweekly Stretch and Flex Yoga Class every other saturday at 9am at the MindBody Center (2000 Coombs Farm Road). See you there!

Register for a Class HERE!

Exercise, Mom Wellness, Nutrition, Self Care, Women's Health

5 Steps I took to go from an Extreme Mindset to Blissfully Balanced

My whole life I have been an extreme, self-competitive, driven, determined, structured, type A individual who can get deep into something I put my heart into. This is great for accomplishing things and with being a former national level figure competitor in bodybuilding, this was great for succeeding in the sport but I didn’t realize I had a lot of healing to do and competing only pushed me further away from myself. Bodybuilding is not to blame, I still love following the sport and love seeing my friends achieve their personal goals with it. I believe that determined mindset is also why I did so well. When I did well and kept improving each show, I was rewarded with my own competitive stage goals, that made me love the stage even more, creating a vicious cycle and an unrealistic expectation of myself in the “off season”. Being so lean on stage created a sense that when not competing and wanting results I felt like…

“I have to do hours of cardio”

“I have to eat the same foods and restrict calories to the extreme.”

“I have to be a slave to the gym.”

This mentality also cycled into…

Binge eating

Insatiable cravings

Fatigue

Feeling like a prisoner to food

Insecurities

Never feeling good enough

Hormonal imbalances

You don’t have to compete to know this cycle. I do believe there are many competitors and non-competitors who have the same mindset and suffer mentally, physically and emotionally from the years of an extreme mindset that causes a multitude of issues that affect wellness. There are so many people feeling this way, but it isn’t talked about because so many do not want to appear “weak”. What I didn’t realize during this rabbit hole I was in, was that these qualities were reactions of feeling out of control of my life, imbalanced, insecurities, past emotional issues and not truly loving myself. That is not weak, that is a serious issue that needs addressed. I hope by speaking about my own journey, it will encourage others silently dealing with the same feelings, to help themselves out of this situation.

I have friends who are competitors and non-competitors who understand this mental state, who have asked me “how did you change that extreme mindset and heal yourself from it because I don’t know how to change?” Everyone’s situation is different and healing looks different for everyone, but these are the first steps I took that started my journey of healing myself.

  1. I started making decisions for my wellbeing.

These decisions look differently for everyone, but I would challenge you to ask yourself, “what is holding me back from being my best self? What is it that is bringing me down?”. After some big realizations, I decided to quit competing and left a toxic relationship. These two decisions were the very first steps to improving my overall wellness and honestly were necessary to my health. My body was so exhausted and needed time to heal from the hormonal damage of extreme dieting for so long. I knew I needed to make decisions that put me in a less anxious, less volatile environment. I needed to focus on me and my mental, physical and emotional well-being.

  1. I hired a coach I trusted.

I hired a coach who helped me come up with a meal and cardio plan. I know what you’re thinking, “How could this be helpful, wouldn’t this put you back into the same situation?” No, this was necessary because if I made my own plan at that time, I would have made things worse. I needed someone to get me started in the right direction and someone that was knowledgeable and knew what they were doing. I was eating the right macros for my body, I was feeling full, I liked the food I was eating and also felt like I had someone who cared about the state of my body, mentally and physically. This helped me get to a point that I could rely on myself and my own awareness which is something I could never do before.

  1. I started listening to my body.

Being on a wholesome, balanced plan sparked enough confidence to start listening to my body, paying attention to my needs and truly taking care of myself. We know our bodies better than anyone but a lot of times we ignore important signs and wait until it’s out of hand. We can prevent a lot of issues just by living more intuitively, quieting the outside noises and extrinsic pressures, and really being real with ourselves.

  1. I started exercising for enjoyment.

I stopped exercising for a competition and started training for fun. I stopped punishing my body with exercise and instead rewarded it with exercise. That was a part of breaking that obsessive habit of only training the way I needed to for the stage and to please judges. I focused on what I liked to do and what made me keep going back. Exploring different kinds of exercise empowered me to break free of the obsessive-compulsive part of my mentality, while maintaining the benefits of aerobic and anaerobic exercise.

  1. I stopped comparing myself to others.

There is nothing wrong in wanting to improve things about yourself while loving yourself and the process. It becomes negative and the opposite of loving yourself when you compare yourself to others. This is so crucial in our world of social media. Social media is a highlight reel of someone’s life, so you can’t compare your challenges to their best. There is so much behind the scenes that we don’t see and who knows where they are in their journey of life. No one is you and that is a beautiful thing to celebrate.

Healing and changing the way you think is challenging but staying in a toxic mindset is even harder. Time will pass anyway so always prioritize your own happiness and see what unfolds. These 5 steps that started my own journey to a healthy and happy mindset inspired many positive things in my life. I married someone who brings even more joy to my life, I got certified in personal training, fitness nutrition, and Holistic Life Coaching, created The Balancebuilding Philosophy based on my own personal journey, that has helped so many struggling individuals become blissfully balanced as well and most of all I have found my own internal peace and love for myself. If you are someone who struggles with finding a balance with personal goals, health, wellness, loved ones, and/or life in general, start with step one, be real with yourself, and start making decisions to better your well-being. Positive decisions create positive outcomes.

Peace, Love, and Positivity,

Brandi