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March 25, 2019

Can we do too many Kegels?

Can we do too many Kegels? And what happens if it’s too tight or if we experience vaginismus?

Ok, this is not a frequently asked question. In fact, most of my clients and students ask to practise more Kegels and strengthening the pelvic floor even further. Because that is what we are bombarded with: Do more Kegels! Tighten your vagina! If we leak, suffering from incontinence, experience lack of pleasure during sex it is blamed on a weak pelvic floor.

But what I have seen is tightness. Not strength – but tightness and tightness usually means weakness too. And the thing is: No-one wants tight muscles. Think about tension and tightness in your neck and shoulders. It’s painful and can be debilitating.

Tightness in the pelvic floor can, in fact, cause incontinence or leaking, pelvic pain, prolapse and discomfort during sex.

I want to share why we might experience too much tightness rather than strength, the consequences and what to do about it.

Pelvic awareness

Because of the epidemic of ‘too tight pelvic floors,’ I feel so strongly about how we actually just need to bring awareness to the pelvis. Sometimes that is all we need. Then we can learn to release any tension or stress here. From there we can build up strength. You don’t want to tighten a muscle that’s already too tight and rigid.

Please have a look at this video to learn more

 

As a yoga teacher and bodyworker, this is what I teach in my classes, consultations and online training. And I have worked with literally 1000s of people including pregnant and postpartum women. Going through these stages of pelvic awareness, releasing tension and then creating strength. Through meditations and visualisation and practices as well as yoga-based movements. You need to learn about your unique body and what you need at this moment.

The tight but weak vagina

Why do we get tightness in the pelvic floor muscles? Let have a look at some potential and common reasons:

  • How is your posture? Most of us slouch: on the sofa, in the car, on the train, in front of the computer, in the office… this rounding of the back actually tightness and contracts the pelvic floor muscles. And not in a good way. Your posture and daily habits are the most common reasons for too much tightness and weakness.
  • Feeling tense? Stressed? Or anxious? Emotional and mental stress accumulates here – right at the pelvis and pelvic floor.
  • Super strong exercise regimes often call for engaging the pelvic floor or Mulabandha in yoga. Yoginis and ballerinas are often seen with excessive tension, hypertonicity, in the pelvis.
  • Sometimes this tightness is unexplained.
  • It can also be due to different forms of trauma.
  • Vaginismus is a specific condition where the vaginal muscles tighten or spasm so deeply that using a tampon or having intercourse becomes painful and sometimes impossible. There can be many reasons for this, sometimes completely unexplained, perhaps from trauma. Most of us have had some kind of trauma. Maybe not something we think about much.
  • Giving birth can also be a trauma to our body and mind. It’s a massive experience and change and we respond or react to it in different ways. You may also have experienced tears or had an episiotomy. Perhaps the birth situation, the people there or the environment became stressful and you still feel the effect of tensions or trauma experienced.

Guarding and protecting our body

Our bodies are amazing. If we feel exposed, in danger or scared it will guard and protect us. Unfortunately, most of us never release that “guarding”. It stays in the body. If someone gives you a shock you most likely tighten your shoulders. But also the pelvic floor. If we don’t have a technique to release that tension it will stay. It was a helpful mechanism from the body at the time – it was trying to protect us. But we have somehow missed the mechanism of releasing the stress when the danger was over.

Using movement, breath and sound can be a way to start to let it go. Even writing or rituals, yoga, dance, swimming… Or the innate need of shaking it off!

However, if you do have trauma or vaginismus I recommend that you see a therapist with experience in this area to support physically and emotionally.

How to release pelvic tension

If you experience tightness start by bringing awareness to the pelvic floor. Find the tension, the strengths, where there is sensation and where there is none. This is the first part of what I teach at the sacred pelvis course. Then we have techniques to relax and release tension. Maybe you simply need to stay with those two methods for a while. Focusing on the softening and creating space for sensation and blood circulation for healing and strength. Learning to breathe and relax the pelvic floor. Because when we breathe the pelvic floor will move. Breathing properly we both relax, release and engage our pelvic floor – completely naturally.

Then we can consciously start to relax. Just like we remind ourselves to release the shoulders away from the ears we can do the same with the pelvis and pelvic floor muscles. Same thing!

Other ways to relax is a nice warm bath.

Perhaps consider a massage. We can massage around the pelvis and the pelvic floor. You can massage around the sitting bones where most of us have a lot of tension. Then move closer towards the perineum and the vaginal opening. If you see a physiotherapist they may want to use dilators to stretch in the tissues if needed.

You might also want to have a look at this blog. It is about perineal and vaginal massage often used to prepare for birth but we can all explore this practice.

It is important to learn to relax. Many of the issues we usually connect to a weak pelvic floor are associated with a tight pelvic floor such as pelvic pain, the urge to go to the loo and incontinence. That’s why I am so passionate about just bringing awareness to our sacred pelvis and pelvic floor. And then learning to release tension before moving on to the strengthening part.

Once you release the tension then you can start to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles more actively. This holistic process is important for a balanced and healthy pelvic floor. It’s what I share online at the sacred pelvis. There is no magic pill, no specific exercises that fit all, rather we need to learn to reconnect to our sacred pelvis again and practise with awareness.

The balanced pelvic floor

Its all about balance. But we need to learn to tune in to find it. I hope I have opened your eyes and awareness so you can actually feel your pelvic floor, that you notice when you tighten and when you relax. That you can create stability and strength yet also release any tension. Just like you would with the rest of the body. Finding balance again. And perhaps start the journey to heal your pelvic floor if you do suffer from discomfort, weakness, incontinence or lack of sensation.

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Anja Brierley Lange

Anja Brierley Lange is passionate about womb wellness, pelvic floor awareness, and women’s health. She is an Ayurvedic practitioner, yoga teacher, and has additional training in yoni steam, clinical aromatherapy, flower essences, and reiki. Her passion project sacredpelvis.com is an online course in pelvic floor awareness. She is the founder of yogaembodied.com and she is active on Instagram as @anja_yogini where she would love to hear from you. Connect with her via her website, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.