Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Kegels 101

During pregnancy and after childbirth, we hear a lot about “kegels”. We all know we should do them, but what exactly are they, why should we do them, and where, when and most importantly how should we do them? 

What are Kegels? 
Your pelvic floor muscles are part of your deep core muscle system.  As you can see below, they are actually a sling of muscles that support your internal organs. Pelvic floor exercises are commonly called ‘Kegels’ after a famous pelvic floor advocate, Dr. Kegel. Until he came along women assumed it was natural to have varying degrees of incontinence after having a baby. The name Kegel is also sometimes used to refer to the pelvic floor muscles themselves.

Why do Kegels?
Your pelvic floor co-contracts with your tummy flattening muscles, the transverse abdominis (TVA).  A strong pelvic floor results in a flatter abdomen, a stronger core unit, less pelvis and lower back pain and reduced incontinence.  It can also improve your love life.

When and Where?
Try to develop a daily routine of when and where you do your kegels, so that it becomes a habit.  Suggestions include: 
- while you are nursing baby
- at stop lights/on the bus
- lying in bed before you go to sleep
- while watching the news

How to do Kegels
Activating your pelvic floor muscles can be challenging at first. Studies have shown that 50% of women can not properly perform a kegel when given one or two verbal cues, so you should try all the methods to find the one that works best. 

Find a comfortable position and try the following cues:
- Squeeze and lift your vaginal muscles
- Squeeze and lift your pelvic floor
- Squeeze as though stopping the flow of urine
- Bring your tail bone towards your pubic bone
- Imagine you are wearing a tampon.  Lift it higher into your body.
- Place a ball between your legs just above you knees.  As you squeeze the ball, your pelvic floor muscles should naturally activate.
- Visualize drawing an imaginary line between your two sitting bones and think of that line getting shorter and longer.
- Visualize drawing an imaginary line from your pubic bone to your tail bone and think of that line getting shorter and longer.
- Another way to find them is to imagine that you are sitting on a marble and want to pick up the marble with your vagina. Imagine "sucking" the marble into your vagina.

Tips for the “Perfect Kegel”
- Try to squeeze equally on the left and right sides
- Try different positions- standing, lying on your side, stomach, back, knees up, all fours, child’s pose and perfect the positions that are easiest for you before moving on to harder ones.
- Make sure your motion is going “up and in” rather than bearing down
- Make sure there is no bulging of the lower tummy
- Avoid contracting your glutes while doing a kegel.  This can be a challenge in the beginning but will come with time.  

Finding it difficult to stay disciplined with your pelvic floor exercises on your own? Feeling like you need more instruction and cues? You're in luck...there's an app for that! Download the Fit 4 Two-approved Pelvic Floor Trainer App and enjoy both visual and audio routines at your fingertips. 

Do you need some guidance and motivation? Try a Fit 4 Two® class in your community.

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