Updated: Sep 19, 2019
The pelvic floor can be so tight, in fact, that these muscles are effectively weakened because they are permanently overworking in a constricted state. In these circumstances, working on exercises, like kegels, to tighten the pelvic floor will actually make things worse, not better.
If you have an overactive pelvic floor it’s highly likely that you will be experiencing some kind of persistent (chronic) pelvic pain. Pain coming from the pelvic floor can be felt around the sacroiliac joints, the pubic symphysis, groin, hamstrings, buttocks, iliotibial band and the abdominal and lower back muscles. You might even have tried some kind of treatment for pain in one of these areas that wasn’t effective and this could be because the pain is actually coming from your pelvic floor.
First and foremost, if you are experiencing any pelvic symptoms it is important to visit your GP or gynecologist to rule out any potential medical issues. However, if you suspect that overactive pelvic floor muscles are the culprit, the best advice is to begin regular ‘down training’ exercises to help relax your pelvic floor as well as stretches for the muscles around your pelvis and abdomen, to restore balance.
Exercises to tighten the pelvic floor are called ‘Kegel Exercises’. These are the ones you should avoid.
Exercises to relax the pelvic floor are sometimes called ‘Reverse Kegels’.
Pelvic floor muscles stretch and release
Kneel with your bottom on your heels and your forehead resting comfortably on the ground.
Focus your attention on your pelvic floor muscles Inhale and imagine stretching the back of your T-shirt with your ribs and relaxing the muscles around your tailbone as the air fills your lungs Exhale without effort
Repeat 5 cycles of breathing in this position
Lie face down on a mat and place your hands by your shoulders.
Inhale to prepare sending the breath down towards your pelvic floor and towards the back of your rib cage Exhale and press the floor away with your hands to gently lift the body until your arms are straight.
Keep the front of your pelvis facing the floor and move within a comfort zone so that there is no pressure in the lower back
Do 3 cycles of breathing in this upward position allowing your abdominal wall to stretch.
Lower again and repeat 5 times
Abdominal stretch 2
Use an exercise ball to stretch your abs. Lie on your back on the exercise ball with your knees and elbows bent and your hands by your chest. Push back with your feet to straighten your legs as you extend your arms over your head. Your body should make a long curve over the ball and you should feel a good stretch throughout your abdominals.
Hold the stretch for 2 to 3 seconds, then return to the starting position.
Do 10 to 15 repetitions.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and place one foot on the opposite knee.
Lift the leg underneath and take hold of it with your hands
Draw your underneath leg in towards your chest to stretch your outer hip muscles.
Hold for 30 seconds while practicing your abdominal breathing (exercise 1)
Repeat twice on each leg
Supine pelvic floor stretch
This stretch is a great hip and pelvic floor lengthener. Start by pulling both knees toward your chest. Then take your knees out to the side to add in an inner groin stretch. As you’re breathing, focus on letting go of your pelvic floor and buttock muscles.
Take 5-10 deep breaths in this posture.
Supported spinal twist
Start by sitting side ways with knees bent allowing your right shin to rest in the arch of the left foot. With your left hip snug up against the bolster, lift your breast bone sitting up tall and gently twist to the left so that you’re facing the bolster. Slowly lower yourself down so that your left cheek is comfortably resting on the bolster. If you want to increase the intensity of this stretch, turn your head to the left so that the right cheek is resting on the bolster. Only do this if your neck feels comfortable in the twist. Take 5-10 deep belly breaths. Repeat on the other side.
Supported groin & pelvic floor stretch with slight back bend
Start by sitting with your back facing the bolster. Slowly lower yourself down to rest your back on top of the bolster. Bring your feet together so the soles of your feet touch, allowing your knees to open out to the side. If this posture is not comfortable for your back, feel free to try the same pose but without the bolster. If you feel like your legs are straining and inner thighs are too tight, use pillows for support underneath your knees. This posture should feel comfortable. I love this restorative posture because it opens the pelvic floor and the feedback you get from your hands on your belly really deepens the awareness of the belly breathing.
Take 15-20 deep breaths here.
Hip & lower back twist
Stretching your hips and low back helps to reduce tension in your pelvic floor. They’re neighbors so they like to talk to each other. Start by lying on your back. Pull one knee to your chest and gently pull the leg across your body with the opposite hand placed on the outside of the knee. Then extend the other arm out to the side at shoulder level height. To increase the intensity of this stretch, turn your head to look at your extended arm.
Breath deeply for 5-10 breaths. Repeat on the other side.
Pelvic floor deep squat
Start by standing with your feet wide apart and toes pointed out to the side. Slowly stick your butt out and lower yourself towards the floor. If balance is an issue, feel free to use your back up against a wall to lean on for added support. If your hips or knees just don’t feel comfortable in this position, try adjusting the width of your knees and feet. I love props so play around with using a yoga block or pillow under your sit bones. If you find your heels aren’t touching the floor, use a rolled up yoga mat or half foam roller under your heels. Finding that sweet spot will vary from person to person. Keep your feet flat and your heels down. You shouldn’t feel like you’re holding yourself up.
Take 5-10 deep breaths. Stand up and repeat 3 more times.
Imagine that there is a clock lying flat on your lower abdomen. Twelve o'clock is at your belly button, 6 o'clock is at the top of your pubic bone. Your hip bones are at 9 and 3. You engage your abdominals to move the pelvis only an inch or so in each direction. The goal is to do this movement smoothly with the abs and not the back. You isolate the movement of the pelvis so that the upper body stays still and relaxed and the hip sockets allow the pelvis to move without affecting the legs. Use this exercise to build awareness of positioning your abs, pelvis, and spine.
Kneeling hip flexor stretch
You can do this stretch daily to help loosen your hip flexor.
Kneel on your right knee.Put your left foot on the floor with your left knee at a 90-degree angle Drive your hip forward. Maintaining a straight back, lean your torso forward.Hold the position for 30 seconds.
Repeat 2 to 5 times with each leg, trying to increase your stretch each time.
This is a great stretch to practice after a workout or if you need a break from sitting in a chair.
Sit on the floor with both legs straight out in front of you. Bring the soles of your feet together, and then move your heels as close to your body as you can. Lean forward with a straight back.Push on your thighs with your elbows for a deeper stretch.
Hold the stretch for 30 seconds.
Horizontal squat stretch
This stretch can also help loosen your back muscles.
Begin with your elbows and knees on the floor, and your knees bent at 90 degrees. Walk your knees as far apart as you can and lengthen the spine. Lower your upper body onto your forearms as you draw your hips back and down.
Hold for up to 60 seconds.
Wide leg standing.
Put your feet as far apart as you can comfortably manage. Gently shift your weight as far as it will go to one side (you may need to let your butt poke backward to really get this stretch), and hold for at least one minute. Shift to the other side for the same length of time.
Start seated on your backside with the knees bent and feet flat on the floor, wider than hip distance. Place the hands behind the hips to support yourself. Gently drop the knees from side-to-side, keeping the hips as still as possible.
Repeat for 30 seconds.
This stretch is quite intense, so only participate if it feels right for your body. Start on hands and knees, bringing your knees as far apart as is comfortable. Keep the inner edge of your feet on the ground, with toes pointed outward. Slowly lower to your forearms, and move your body weight forward and back a couple of times. Finish by gently sitting the hips back into the stretch and holding for up to 60 seconds.
Hip Circles on Large Exercise Ball:
Sitting on top of a large exercise ball. Spread your butt cheeks so that the pelvic floor is connected to the ball. Keep your feet planted and circle your hips 10-15 times in each direction while inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth (jaw relaxed). Keep your hips and pelvis relaxed.