The pelvic floor is the bottom of the core and made up of a complex system of muscles, ligaments, nerves and connective tissue. It supports the bladder, uterus, vagina and rectum in women, the bladder and rectum in men and helps all those parts of the body work well together.
The pelvic floor system lies hidden beneath the pelvic bones making it physically inaccessible. Also, the anatomy and functioning of the pelvic floor is intertwined with nerves and connective tissue that aren’t discrete. The heart and the gut are two similarly complex systems in the body, but unlike the pelvic floor they aren’t voluntarily controlled. That’s what makes the pelvic floor unique.
A complex, unique system, yes and yet unlike the heart and gut, the pelvic floor is an often overlooked even neglected part of the body…until it goes wrong.
Millions of men and especially women all over the world suffer from pelvic floor problems, e.g. urinary and faecal incontinence and specifically for women, prolapse (where the pelvic organs drop down and create a bulge within or outside of the vagina.)
Research shows that the three biggest risk factors impairing the proper functioning of the pelvic floor are ageing, childbirth and obesity. High impact sports can also detrimentally affect the health of the pelvic floor.
Pelvic floor exercises are the best way to help prevent and treat pelvic floor problems and this is where Pilates has a vital role to play. Engagement of the pelvic floor is a key feature of the Pilates Method. We do it between every exhale and inhale whilst performing each Pilates exercise. In an hour-long class that’s a great workout to strengthen the pelvic floor.
For more information about the pelvic floor, I recommend this article by Jane Simpson and her excellent book, The Pelvic Floor Bible. Jane did an interesting lecture last year at a training weekend by my professional governing body, the Pilates Foundation.
Another recommendation – Joey Landreth. His debut album Whiskey is worth a listen. Here’s a taster…