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!

Mom Wellness, Self Care, Women's Health

Trying to Conceive? Balancebuilding before Babybuilding

The motherly instinct we get as women kicks in long before baby gets here. As mothers, or future mothers, we need to plan ahead in creating the most fertile and healthiest environment in our bodies for the baby and ourselves. The road to a positive pregnancy test can be daunting so taking action months prior to conception can get your body at its peak level to support conception and a growing baby.

So, what are the first steps you should take after making the decision to expand your family?

1. Schedule an appt with your OB/GYN.

Scheduling a pre-pregnancy appointment where your physician can review your family history, health issues, past pregnancies, what to expect and a plan moving forward. And it is always a must to consult your physician before making any changes to your health regimen.

2. Check your lifestyle and manage your stress.

Now is a good time to engage in stress management tools such as yoga, meditation, breathing techniques, eating healthy, exercise or whatever you consider healthy self-care to be. Evidence states that everyday stressor can impact fertility but most experts believe that this isn’t due directly to the stress but the stress from the unhealthy habits that people turn to in response to the stress like smoking, drinking, overeating, undereating, neglecting to exercise, etc.

Using the Holmes-Rahe stress scale can help you calculate your own stress levels based on huge life events and everyday stressors. If you are under a serious amount of stress, talk openly to your physician about it so they can work closely with you to help manage it.

 3. Evaluate your health and diet.

According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG), you should focus before and during pregnancy, on consuming a healthy, balanced, vitamin rich diet. Being underweight or overweight, going into a pregnancy, can have adverse effects on you and the baby’s health.

Risks to being underweight:

  • Fertility issues
  • Increased risk of miscarriage
  • Low birth weight baby
  • Preterm labor
  • Labor issues
  • Health and behavior issues well into childhood and even adulthood

Risks to being overweight:

  • Fertility issues
  • Increased risk of miscarriage
  • High blood pressure
  • Preeclampsia
  • Preterm birth
  • Gestational Diabetes
  • Macrosomia- Larger than normal baby
  • Increased risk of birth injury and cesarean birth
  • Increased risk of Neural Tube Defects
  • Increased body fat can make it difficult for your health care provider accurately monitor the baby.

These are definitely good reasons to start evaluating your health and start thinking about what you are consuming. It is also important to make sure you are getting enough vitamins and minerals in your diet. It can be tough to get in all of the vitamins and minerals we need from food alone so the ACOG also suggests taking a prenatal vitamin even before becoming pregnant.

List of important vitamin and minerals to enable a healthy pre-pregnancy body (ALWAYS consult your provider before taking any supplements):

    • Zinc– Important for Men and Women prior to getting pregnant
      • 25-50 mg per day for fertility purposes
      • For women
        • Zinc helps the body utilize estrogen and progesterone in the body.
        • Regulates menstrual cycles.
        • Enables high quality, mature eggs ready to be fertilized.
        • Zinc deficiency can cause miscarriage, imbalanced hormones, irregular periods, and ovarian issues.
      • For men
        • Helps develop high quality, mature sperm and a higher quantity, making it easier to fertilize the egg.
        • Zinc deficiency can cause low sperm count, chromosomal defects (due to the low quality of the sperm that fertilized), which can lead to miscarriage.
      • Foods that contain Zinc
        • Sunflower seeds
        • Pumpkin seeds
        • Eggs
        • Beef
        • Turkey
        • Shrimp
        • Venison
        • Whole grains
        • Dairy that contains whole fat
  • Folic Acid/Folate
    • 400 micrograms daily at least one month before becoming pregnant
    • 600 micrograms daily while pregnant
    • Taking a supplement containing folic acid can help assure you consume enough.
    • When taken before pregnancy and during pregnancy folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects. Just by taking the recommended dose of folic acid prior to conceiving, you can decrease the chances of an NTD in from 4.8 in 1000 babies to 1 in 1000 babies, according to the Center for Disease Control.
  • Iron
    • 27mg daily for Pregnant women, half of that dose for a non-pregnant woman.
    • Iron is used by your body to make a substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen to your organs and tissues. During pregnancy, your body needs extra iron to make more blood to supply oxygen to the baby.
    • Research shows only one in five fertile women starts her pregnancy with adequate iron levels.
    • A study on how Iron affects infertility shows that women who consumed iron supplements had a significantly lower risk of ovulatory infertility than women who did not use iron supplements.
    • Taking a prenatal vitamin supplies you with adequate Iron but you can also get Iron from certain foods including…
      • Lean red meat
      • Poultry
      • Fish
      • Dried beans
      • Peas
      • Iron fortified cereals
    • Iron rich foods are also more easily absorbed if ate with Vitamin C rich foods like…
      • Citrus fruits
      • Tomatoes 

4. Ditch the Toxic Products.

    • Scientific evidence accumulated over the last 15 years have shown that exposure to toxic chemicals before conception and during pregnancy can have significant and long-lasting effects on reproductive health, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.
    • This research, along with the Environmental Working Group’s research, has determined that reproductive health problems linked to toxic chemicals in cosmetics and other personal care products include…
      • Infertility
      • Low birth weight
      • Preterm birth
      • Cancers
      • Birth defects
    • These toxic chemicals are not regulated and continue to be used in common household products and beauty products.
    • These toxic chemicals include but not limited to…
      • Pesticides
      • Synthetic fragrance
      • Phthalates- a family of toxic chemicals that have been linked to allergies and asthma, infertility, reduced testosterone concentrations, and abnormal development of reproductive system in baby boys.
      • Formaldehyde, a known carcinogen
      • Mercury- which can lead to kidney and nervous system damage
      • Lead- a known neurotoxin
      • Asbestos- a carcinogen
      • Isobutylparaben, isopropylparaben, butylparaben and propylparaben- research shows parabens can be linked to breast cancer and disruption to the endocrine system.
      • Toluene- toxic to the brain and nervous system
      • Triclosan- affects the thyroid
    • Do your own research and be your own advocate. Take action and replace your household cleaners and beauty products with more natural products. Research companies and take labels that claim they are “natural” or “organic” as face value because they are not regulated by the fda, so these companies are not required to show all ingredients or disclose what is really in the product.
    • Download the Think Dirty App to help you find out where your favorite products rank on a toxicity scale!

5. Start Exercising if you don’t already.

    • Exercise has so many health benefits so you can’t go wrong with starting a new exercise routine to incorporate in your Pre-Pregnancy health regimen that continues during pregnancy.
    • Physical activity does not increase your risk of miscarriage, low birth weight, or early delivery, according to the ACOG.
    • Regular exercise during pregnancy benefits you and your baby in many ways including…
      • Reduces back pain
      • Helps digestion
      • May decrease your risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and cesarean delivery
      • Promotes healthy weight gain during pregnancy
      • Improves your overall fitness and strengthens your heart and blood vessels
      • Helps with endurance and strength to endure child birth
      • Helps you to lose the baby weight after baby is born
    • Exercise Guidelines for Pregnant Women- “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that pregnant women get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week. An aerobic activity is one in which you move large muscles of the body (like those in the legs and arms) in a rhythmic way. Moderate intensity means you are moving enough to raise your heart rate and start sweating. You still can talk normally, but you cannot sing. If you are new to exercise, start out slowly and gradually increase your activity. Begin with as little as 5 minutes a day. Add 5 minutes each week until you can stay active for 30 minutes a day.
    • If you were very active before pregnancy, you can keep doing the same workouts with your health care professional’s approval. However, if you start to lose weight, you may need to increase the number of calories that you eat.” https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Exercise-During-Pregnancy
    • Examples of moderate-intensity aerobic activity include brisk walking and general gardening (raking, weeding, or digging). You can divide the 150 minutes into 30-minute workouts on 5 days of the week or into smaller 10-minute workouts throughout each day.

6. Have fun!

Trying to conceive can be stressful and disappointing for so many, do your best to eliminate stress, become your best, balanced self and rely on your health care provider for any questions or concerns! Best wishes on your TTC Journey!

 

 

Sources:

https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Good-Health-Before-Pregnancy-Prepregnancy-Care

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140529092816.htm

https://www.conceiveeasy.com/get-pregnant/zinc-and-your-fertility/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10559448

https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/news/story/3150/pre-conception-and-early-pregnancy-iron-deficiency-harms-brain.aspx

https://journals.lww.com/greenjournal/pages/articleviewer.aspx?year=2006&issue=11000&article=00015&type=fulltext

https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Nutrition-During-Pregnancy#iron

https://www.ewg.org/research/exposing-cosmetics-cover/toxic-chemicals-threaten-healthy-births

https://www.ewg.org/californiacosmetics/toxic20

https://www.ewg.org/enviroblog/2015/11/common-preservative-in-personal-care-products-linked-breast-cancer

https://www.ewg.org/enviroblog/2008/12/phthalates-phthalates-everywhere

https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Exercise-During-Pregnancy

Self Care

What is the Balancebuilding® Philosophy?

Balance can seem like something that is easily achieved, but it is actually something that so many people struggle to find. Struggling with balance is something, I have found, that no one really talks about. Society has placed this stigma that if you aren’t balanced, happy, aesthetically pleasing and centered at all times, then you are weak or a failure. I can assure you that everyone struggles at some point in their life with imbalance in some aspect. And that is where the Balancebuilding Philosophy can help!

The Balancebuilding Philosophy is living in a way to bring balance to all aspects of your life; mentally, physically and soulfully. There are a multitude of tools that comes with this philosophy to help in achieving this. Balancebuilding is the act of working on your personal mind, body and soul goals to achieve a life of overall wellness. Just as bodybuilding is challenging and takes dedication, consistency, persistence and time. Balancebuilding is the same, but it takes into consideration the other pieces that need added to the foundation to be able to sustain and maintain the physical aspect of it. Everyone has a situation or certain circumstances in their life and your ratio of what balance looks like differs from the person sitting next to you. Our lives are ever changing and so does our Balancebuilding journeys. Instead of feeling guilt and shame for things we can not change we simply shift how we approach our journey.

I wear many hats including writer, Holistic Life Coach, Personal Trainer, Fitness Nutrition Specialist, Yoga Teacher and Mompreneur, but my main focus is collaborating all of these hats to bring the Balancebuilding Philosophy to everyone’s way of living. I am on a mission to get the tools out to others, to empower them to achieve their goals physically, while nurturing their mind and soul, working in while working out. I created the Balancebuilding Philosophy after going on my own journey to finding balance, recovering from the physical and mental extremes from competitive bodybuilding, going from a bodybuilder to a balancebuilder. The Balancebuilding Philosophy helps alleviate the dieting mentality, by combining information and tools to help others achieve complete synchronicity between the mind, body and soul, for a lifetime.

Message me for more information on how the Balancebuilding Philosophy can help you achieve your goals! I want to help you become a better balanced self!