Pelvic Health is for Everyonewritten by Crunch Ranjani
What do you think of when you think of pelvic health? If you are like most people, you might think of it as something for women, related to childbearing, and something we can’t control as we age. However, the truth is, whether a person is male, female, non-binary, or non-gender conforming, everyone has a pelvis and a pelvic floor. And as with any other part of the body, it is important for us to know what this part of our body does for us, and how we can ensure it is healthy and working well.
That’s why pelvic health is important for everyone.
It is one of the crucial parts of our body that plays many functions in our daily lives, but gets very little attention and is not often talked about. Many people, including yoga teachers, don’t understand or appreciate everything that our pelvis and pelvic floor do for us.
In this article, we are going to explore the key functions of the pelvis and pelvic floor in movement and daily function of the body, some common pelvic health issues that a majority of people experience at some point, and how yoga can help in pelvic health.
Where is my Pelvis and What Does it Do?
The pelvis is a basin-shaped collection of bones in the lower torso of the human body.
It’s made up of the sacrum, the coccyx (tailbone), and the three areas of the hip bones, which are the ilium, the pubis, and the ischium.
When you place your hands at the top of the pelvis, you are touching the top of the ilium. At the front of the pelvis is the pubis and on the bottom are the ischial tuberosities (aka sitz bones or butt bones).
The pelvis serves to support and provide balance to the spine, protect and support internal organs such as the intestines, the urinary bladder, and the internal sex organs, and it also connects the legs to the torso.
The Pelvic Floor – The Secret Superhero
The pelvic floor is a part of the body that is not often talked about, but it plays a crucial role in many daily functions. The pelvic floor refers to a set of muscles at the base of your pelvis that forms a diamond shape as they attach to the pubis, ischial tuberosities and coccyx.
When it comes to function, the pelvic floor is a real superhero. In fact, if the pelvic floor had a superhero costume, it would need the letter “S” on it five times, because that’s how many superpowers it has. The pelvic floor is essential to five key functions of our body (a.k.a. The 5 S’s).
It provides support for our internal pelvic organs, and it plays a role in sphincteric function to allow us to control when we do and don’t expel urine and feces. The pelvic floor is also essential to sexual function, and as a part of our core, it is indispensable to stability. The last (but just as important) role of the pelvic floor is as a sump-pump, to circulate blood and lymph. Without this we would experience an increase in swelling or abdominal congestion. .
For more information on the anatomy of the pelvic floor and its functions, listen to Episode 129 with Marie-Josée Forget and Episode 192 with Shannon Crow.
Common Pelvic Health Issues
Despite often being glossed over in anatomy classes, Yoga Teacher Trainings and even overlooked by medical professionals, the pelvis and pelvic floor play a critical role in our daily lives, movements and well-being. It is not surprising then to note that a majority of people experience some sort of pelvic health issues in their lives.
33 million Americans, 3.3 million Canadians and almost 400 million people worldwide suffer from urinary incontinence. 4% to 16% of all women experience chronic pelvic pain (sometimes described as hip pain). Most common among people who have given birth, pelvic organ prolapse is a condition with an incidence rate of 35% to 50%. These are just a few of the most common pelvic health issues people face and many more people are dealing with these issues than we realize.
How can Yoga Help Pelvic Health?
As yoga teachers, it is not uncommon to have students who share about their health issues. Some of the common complaints we may hear are tightness or pain in the hips or pelvis, or issues with the bladder. For yoga teachers working with people who have given birth, perhaps your students have asked if Kegels are a good exercise postpartum or when they can go back to the gym.
For many of these common issues, yoga can help tremendously in alleviating symptoms and addressing the underlying causes. Among other things, yoga can help with hip pain, pelvic girdle pain, painful bladder syndrome, incontinence, and painful sex. Even for students without specific health concerns relating to the pelvis or pelvic floor, yoga can help improve pelvic health and is easily integrated into a typical yoga class. For the full list of podcasts and other resources related to pelvic health, check out the Pelvic Health Resources page.
Having a complete and thorough understanding of the pelvis and pelvic floor can help us address many issues our students may be dealing with. Shannon Crow, Host of The Connected Yoga Teacher Podcast also recommends making local connections to pelvic floor physiotherapists and other healthcare professionals with pelvic health training to refer students for further medical evaluation and consultation.
Whether you are male or female, there is an extremely high chance that you, your loved ones, or your students experience pelvic health issues. That’s why understanding the pelvis and pelvic floor, as well as being aware of pelvic health issues is tremendously important.
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