Free Download! Yoga for Pelvic Floor Balance: Are You Making this Common Mistake?

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Donna Brooks

Donna Brooks is an ISMETA registered somatic movement educator and therapist and a certified Yoga therapist. She designs and teaches yoga-based therapeutic programs for diverse populations, especially baby boomers, the aging or injured, and people with chronic illness and chronic pain She has...

Most people recognize problems with incontinence, prolapse, and prostate dysfunction as imbalances of the pelvic floor. But did you know that pelvic floor imbalance could play a role in misalignment of the jaw, fallen arches, and a host of other seemingly unrelated problems throughout the body?

In this fascinating interview, Donna Brooks, a registered somatic movement educator and therapist, and certified Yoga therapist, explains how even a small degree of misalignment in the intricate balance of the pelvic floor muscles can destabilize places in our body and affect the health of our vital organs, the position of our hips, gait and sitting habits, and more.

With the popularity of “hip openers” and asymmetrical poses that don’t address each person’s individual structure, this topic is more relevant for yogis than ever. As well, it’s easy to fall into the trap of practicing from an external picture of a pose that doesn’t suit our particular body type, rather than the experience of the pose.

How to avoid the pitfalls of practice? A somatic approach that helps unravel dysfunctional habits and brings us into a deep harmony with the rhythms and movement of our bodies.

Donna explains, “The body wants to move to homeostasis, but because we have these constrictions as a result of lots of factors— such as accidents, injuries, or emotional traumas— we may not be able to reset the way we did when we were younger. These things all put limits on our bodies, our minds, and our emotions. Somatic movement allows us to go deeply into our bodies experientially, so we can unwind those restrictive patterns.”

Part of that somatic work is to understand the need to achieve muscular strength with integrity. “Many people do those things based on a lot of dysfunction in their bodies and it just makes the dysfunction more set and worse,” she explains. It’s so important not try to put something on your body to fix it, but to take away those patterns that don’t serve you, so that the body finds itself. And as the body finds itself, it will find its posture.

This somatic approach lies in contrast to what Donna describes as the fitness goals of recent years that involve a lot of tightening and intense pulling up, with an emphasis on strengthening and tightening. While this approach may work for some, she observes that someone whose muscles are already on the tight side is already doing a lot of the sort of scooping activity that pulls the pelvic floor in and up. For them, the pelvic floor could get too tight, which can contribute to sexual dysfunction, pain, constipation, difficulty with urination, and so on.

Incorporating somatic movement and awareness is a way to build much-needed elasticity. Incorporating movements like gentle bouncing, for example, can create tone and improve resilience. “Gentle bouncing could actually facilitate the Fascia and the slings holding the organs, keeping some elasticity,” she notes.  

She also notes that a somatic approach to inversions can change the whole dynamic. “It’s a matter of not just thinking of taking the pressure off the pelvic floor, but really seeing if you can bring the weight into a different place and maybe through that weight in a different place bring a kind of buoyancy to your ligaments and tendons,” she explains.

Donna says that yoga teachers can bring a somatic focus into their practice for improved pelvic floor function: “If yoga teachers have a consciousness of how the pelvic floor works and how it's related to your hips, your knees, your feet, your abdominals and your posture, then you can really see your students or your own pelvic floor needs and integrate them into the practices that you're already doing.”

As for practitioners who want to add a somatic spin to their practices, she counsels taking time to really be able to liberate the wisdom of your own body.

Most people go to yoga classes expecting to be directed and expecting that the teacher really knows the answer. But the truth is that no one ultimately will know the answer to what your body needs better than you. Donna notes that if you're in a class where that's being facilitated, that's really great. And if you're not in a class where that's facilitated, then you have to take it upon yourself to respect your limits.

You may also enjoy Donna's course, Yoga for Pelvic Floor Health — Therapeutic Movement and Somatic Repatterning.