Pilates and the Pelvic Floor - important for both men and women
The pelvic floor muscles make for our body’s core along with the abdominal and back muscles. They form a supportive web of interrelated muscles, ligaments, and tendons, sitting at the base of the pelvic bowl. These muscles belong to the group we focus on during core strength exercises in Pilates. For women, one of these muscles, the Pubococcygeus goes around the openings for the vagina and urethra (urine tube), and the levator ani goes around the rectum. For men, the urethra and the rectum pass through these same pelvic floor muscles. In both genders, the pelvic floor muscles can get weakened or get damaged, and when they do, these openings are compromised. When pelvic floor muscles become weakened, a person can experience problems like diminished sexual enjoyment, abdominal and/or back pain, incontinence, constipation and/or bowel control. Severe cases note a prolapse – a dropping of the organs into the pelvic muscles.
Benefits of Strengthening the Pelvic Floor
Strengthening the pelvic floor is vital for both men and women because the pelvic floor muscles protect your joints and organs; they are considered "stabilizing muscles" and they’ll help improve your coordination, fitness and your core strength. Strong pelvic floor muscles protect the uterus in women, and bladder and bowel are kept healthy in both men and women. Also, they help flatten the belly and support the spine and lower back.
How Does Pilates Help?
Pilates is an excellent core conditioning exercise that strengthens the pelvic floor. Pilates utilizes the pelvic floor muscles in their primary role - as natural muscular pillars for movement. This exercise concept encourages awareness of these muscles, and how to contract them without overdoing it, but just enough so that they may provide support in the long run. Whether you are doing a more intense form of Pilates or attending restorative classes, awareness is key and especially not overdoing it is essential in the prevention of pelvic floor dysfunction.
Depending on your end-goal, you should always speak to a Pilates and movement specialist before you engage in pelvic floor strengthening so you know you are doing it right.
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