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Pre/postnatal Pilates: Pelvic floor (Part II) – 4 exercises to stretch & strengthen

Updated: May 1, 2023

In my previous post about the pelvic floor, I shared about what it is, and why it’s so important whether you’re a mummy (to-be/postpartum), or any other regular person really. In Part II on you the pelvic floor, I will now go into the actual exercises that you can practice for your pelvic floor health. Anyone can do these gentle exercises to strengthen and stretch your pelvic floor – it’s not just for mummies! I also mentioned this in Part I, but I’m going to emphasise it once again here – if you are currently pregnant, please DO NOT over-strengthen your pelvic floor by overdoing the Kegel exercises! You need to have a balance between strengthening and stretching of the pelvic floor muscles during pregnancy as these are the muscles that need to release for birth.

Breathing

Huh? Is this even an exercise?

Don’t worry, I’m not trying to cheat your feelings! In fact, this is one of the simplest, and safest exercises that you can do, even within the actual day of birth itself. In general, doctors recommend that you only begin physical exercise at least 6 / 12 weeks postpartum for vaginal and c-sec births respectively, but this breathing practice to connect your pelvic floor can be done as early as your body feels ready. In fact, it is highly recommended to spend just a couple of minutes doing this from the 1st day of birth, even though your insides are probably all feeling like jelly. It’s also about retraining and awaking your muscles which have gone through so much during the birth of your baby.

Find a comfortable position to sit in – perhaps cross-legged on the floor, or seated on a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Feel the contact of your sitting bones on the floor/chair (this is helpful for you to have some “feedback”, especially if this exercise is something totally foreign to you). This breathing exercise involves some visualisation to help you with engaging and releasing the pelvic floor. As you inhale, imagine a flower underneath you blossoming as your pelvic floor relaxes, and feel yourself melting into the mat. As you exhale, think of drawing water up a straw from the ground, through your sitting bones and up to your baby (the feeling of “holding your pee”). Alternating between this releasing and drawing upwards helps you to stretch and strengthen the pelvic floor respectively.

Quadruped hip stretch

Quadruped Hip Stretch

Begin in your all fours position, but with one leg extended out to the side, toes facing forward. Breathe in to lift your chest as you widen your sit bones and send your bum back towards your heels. This helps you to open up your pelvic floor as you get a stretch through your hip and inner thigh. As you breathe out, hug your pelvic floor upwards as you round the spine and return to the starting position. Flow between the two positions a few times, then switch sides.

Sumo Squat

Sumo Squat

Stand with your legs wider than hip width, feet and knees turned out in a 10 and 2 o’clock direction. As you inhale, bend your knees and lower your body down into a squat. Your knees should be stacked above your ankles (not going past your toes) and spine is upright. The pelvic floor gets a stretch as you lower into this position. As you exhale, draw the sitting bones together and again imagine drawing water up a straw between your sitting bones as you stand back up and grow taller through your spine.

Birthing ball bouncing

Birthing ball bouncing

A birthing ball is one of those things that mummies-to-be tend to purchase quite close to their birth, in hopes that it will help in the birth process. Despite its name, it’s actually very useful not just for the birth (imagine buying that ball just for a 1 day event??) but also during pregnancy as well, for various exercises! In fact, even if you’re just using it for the birth, I would suggest getting the ball early enough so that you can practice using it in various positions, otherwise it’s just going to be a white elephant adding clutter to the already busy delivery room.

I won’t go into too much detail about exercises that can be done on the ball (check out my other post for all the deets), but sitting/bouncing on the ball helps to open up your hips to make room for baby to descend into the pelvis. Breathe naturally as you bounce on the ball, and it will help in strengthening and stretching your pelvic floor, and improve your core stability as you work to keep your balance. Always keep your feet on the floor, and hold on to something especially if you’re trying it out for the first time. Have fun!

I’ve got a video on IGTV if you would like a walkthrough of the exercises, check it out here. Want to learn how else Pilates can help you in your pregnancy and post-birth rehabilitation journey? Come try out a private pre/post-natal Pilates class with me and experience it for yourself.

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