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!

Self Care

Spirituality, Yoga, and Meditation for Beginners

Spirituality and religion get misinterpreted often when it comes to yoga. I personally have heard a lot misinterpreted information when it comes to this subject. You don’t have to be a certain faith or religion to practice yoga. Yoga is not affiliated with any organized religion. It’s the spirituality that yoga offers that makes yoga special. Spirituality is personal for each individual, but it is what makes us feel whole and complete. Spirituality is connecting with your authentic self and/or higher power. Our spirit is the foundation of everything we do, it is our moral compass and driving force in life. Yoga is not a specific religion but with pranayama (breath work), asanas (poses), and meditation, it is great at aligning each being with their source, whatever that may be. Yoga challenges us to sit in silence with ourselves and be accepting of who we are and where we are in life. It challenges us to release the past, be present, and be worry free of the future. This self-awareness has a profound effect on how we live our lives. The better self-awareness we have the better we make decisions for our greater good. The more consistency you have with yoga, the more access you gain to self-awareness and self-alignment. This is how showing up to the mat, can little by little, change your life.

The word yoga means “union” or “unite”. You can define what that means to you because that could mean something a little different person to person. For me, I believe it is the act of uniting our true authentic self with the mask we try hard to keep on. It is the union of our authentic self with our higher power. It is the union of our authentic self with our physical self. This trinity of wholeness between the mind, body and soul is something we all try to align with whether we are actively trying to or not. That place where we stop resisting that alignment is the place where your life begins.

Silencing your mind and sitting alone with yourself can be challenging. We live in a busy, fast world where we prioritize everything else before ourselves. We need yoga more now in this life than ever. A diligent yoga practice can bring up the not so pretty moments in your life that need healing, the things we distract ourselves from thinking about. But this is where true healing can begin. Bringing these issues up, feeling them and releasing them is how we stay present, balanced and blissful. Yoga empowers us to be strong and trusting of ourselves and to go with the flow of life. I believe yoga is one of the most underused life management tools and not to mention you only need yourself to start.

HOW TO SILENCE YOUR MIND: MEDITATION FOR BEGINNERS

            If you are unsure of where to start, a good place is allotting just a couple of minutes to meditation daily and working on adding time as you go. The more you practice, the easier it becomes to focus and silence the noise. There are many types of meditations that you can explore that include concentration meditation, mindfulness meditation, walking meditation, and imagery meditation. There are meditations for everyone. This meditation exercise a good place to start if you have never had experience meditating. This is something you can practice anywhere, anytime.

  • Sit or lie in a comfortable position.
  • Close your eyes.
  • Bring your attention to your natural breath and how your body moves with each inhalation and exhalation. If your mind wanders or thoughts start taking over, return your focus back to your breath.
  • Maintain this for 2-3 minutes to start and then add time the more you meditate.

After a few sessions of this, start practicing deeper, more controlled belly breaths.

  • Inhaling into your belly, filling up your belly, then chest at a count of 4
  • Exhaling, emptying your belly, then chest at a count of 4.
  • Focusing on breaths. Imagining inhaling positive energy and exhaling anything that no longer serves you or any thoughts you need to rid your mind of.
  • Repeating this during your meditation practice.

No matter the active practice, I hope you are able to challenge your own self-awareness and deepen your personal spirituality by embracing your own unique practice in this world full of unknowns and challenging situations. Don’t focus on healing the world, focus on healing yourself. If every person heals themselves, how different the world might look.