Written by Kim Vopni
You likely have a lot to manage as a busy woman these days, and often your health and personal needs can get pushed to the bottom of the list. One thing in particular that often gets pushed aside is pelvic health. It’s easy to mask a problem and pretend it doesn’t exist, but living with a pelvic floor that isn’t working as well as it should be can be all-consuming and can interfere with your life and your relationships in several ways.
Kegels are a quick and easy way to regain and maintain pelvic floor vitality, but you have to do them, you have to do them correctly, and you have to do them consistently. I can hear you saying ‘but I just don’t have time for anything else’ or ‘I do them for a bit and then forget’ or ‘I never remember to do them’. I’m here to show you how simple it is to make kegels part of your day, so you can find your kegel mojo!
Understanding Your Pelvic Floor
The pelvic floor muscles run from the pubic joint to the tailbone, and also the 2 sitz bones. When working optimally, the pelvic floor is responsible for maintaining your continence, holding your internal organs in place, supporting your spine and pelvis, and it also plays a role in your sexual satisfaction, or lack thereof. The pelvic floor is a group of muscles interwoven in the pelvis and is a part of the body that you don’t see, making it easy to ignore or take for granted when things are working well. When things aren’t working well, it becomes one of the only things you will think about because of how many roles the pelvic floor plays in your everyday life.
Many women suffer from challenges such as leaking (sneeze pee), pain (chronic or with sex), or prolapse (when the organs move south). The go-to solution has long been the kegel, an exercise developed by Dr. Arnold Kegel, to help women regain strength in their pelvic floor after childbirth. Over the years, the true execution of the kegel has been lost. A kegel exercise should be a conscious contraction of the pelvic floor muscles, followed by a conscious relaxation of those same muscles; however society has a general belief that “harder (or more) is better”, so often the focus when doing kegels is to contract-contract-contract, when really most women need to relax-relax-relax.
Doing Kegels Correctly
Studies show that over 50% of women do kegels incorrectly. Many women mistakenly use the glutes and/or the inner thighs, thinking they are activating the pelvic floor muscles.They squeeze and clench while holding their breath as an attempt to do a kegel, when often they are bearing down and increasing intra-abdominal pressure – not at all what we want when exercising the pelvic floor!
A kegel is a voluntary contraction and relaxation of the muscles. The contraction (a shortening) is good if that is what your pelvic floor needs but many people actually have short and tight pelvic floor muscles, so doing kegels contractions (more shortening) can make any existing challenges like incontinence worse. Asking an already contracted muscle to contract some more will not strengthen it – it will just make it shorter and tighter.
A kegel visualization I like to give people is to imagine a jellyfish. A soft floating jellyfish is like a pelvic floor at its optimal resting length. A pelvic floor contraction is like when the edges of the jellyfish come together and it then propels itself upwards. It opens and softens, and floats again as it relaxes and prepares for the next propulsion.
Give it a try: inhale and imagine your pelvic floor expanding and blossoming as it softly floats; then exhale and imagine the edges of your vulva gathering inwards and propelling upwards towards the crown of your head. A proper kegel is a coming together and then a drawing upwards, followed by a letting go.
Tools & Methods
- The best way to determine if you are doing a kegel correctly, and if they are what YOU need to do, is to see a pelvic floor physiotherapist.
- There are also biofeedback devices that can help you see when your muscles are contracting. Products like the EPI-NO use a gauge, while the Elvie uses high-tech sensors and an app.
- Another kegel tool that has become popular lately is the jade egg or yoni egg. They can play a role in improving strength and endurance, but I urge you to see a pelvic floor physiotherapist before using them, as they can promote clenching or holding, and if you are already prone to holding tension in your pelvic floor, they may not bring you closer to your goals of true kegel mojo.
- Try an app like Kegel Trainer Pro or simply choose to do something when you think about your pelvic floor.
- Your best approach to doing kegels:
3 SETS of 10 REPS with 10-second holds x 3 TIMES DAILY
Kegels As Part of a Daily Routine
The final tip for finding your kegel mojo is to bring your kegels into exercise and everyday movement. When you first start out, sitting or lying down may be helpful to find and connect with your pelvic floor, but ultimately you need your pelvic floor to work as you move.
Once you have mastered the contract, the lift, and the letting go, you can practice adding your kegels to movement and exercises like bridges, squats and even bicep curls. The key is to exhale and contract your pelvic floor just before you move. So in a bicep curl you would inhale and blossom your pelvic floor (and abdomen), then exhale and contract your pelvic floor, and then curl your dumbbells up to your shoulders. Inhale to blossom, and relax your pelvic floor as you lower the dumbbells back down.
Kegels can be brought into activities of daily living, like picking up laundry baskets, standing in grocery store lineups, carrying children, gardening… and the list goes on. Open up your calendar and add in your kegel session – once a day to start, and work up to 2-3 times a day. You can do them just about anywhere, so be creative and kegel your way throughout your day!
Kim Vopni is a self professed pelvic health evangelist and is known as The Vagina Coach. She is a certified fitness professional who became passionate about spreading information on pelvic health when she was pregnant with her first child. She is a published author, a passionate speaker and women’s health educator as well as a mom to two boys. Kim is the founder of Pelvienne Wellness Inc – a company offering pelvic health programs products and coaching for women in pregnancy, motherhood and menopause. She also certifies other fitness and movement professionals to work with women with core and pelvic floor challenges through her Core Confidence Specialist Certification and Pre/Postnatal Fitness Specialist Certification. You can find her online at vaginacoach.com and on social media @vaginacoach