Bringing flexy back
Three simple Pilates exercises can help you get your pelvic floor in shape, writes Audrey Kane
If you’ve ever sneezed, laughed, or jumped and wet yourself a little, you’re not alone. The instigator is a weakened pelvic floor — but help is at hand.
“Pilates can help strengthen pelvic floor muscles while building endurance and coordination, with research showing improvement in abdominal endurance, flexibility, and balance within eight weeks of training,” says Pilates expert Nicky Lingwood, who has been teaching for years.
Here Nicky shows three of her favourite exercises to start you off.
The Bridge: Known to help relieve menstrual discomfort. If you have a tight lower back, try placing several folded blankets under your bottom.
■ Lie on your back in the centre of the mat with your knees bent, and your legs and feet parallel and hip-distance apart. ■ Move your feet closer to your buttocks. Press down firmly through both your feet and exhale to raise your hips, lifting from the pubic bone rather than the navel. ■ Inhale and slowly articulate your spine down the mat. Start with upper, middle, and finally lower back, returning to a neutral spine.
Pelvic brace: Done lying on your back, this exercise will help you to find and feel your TVA (transverse abs) working.
■ Lie on your back, one leg straight on the ground, one knee bent with your foot flat on the ground. ■ Take your hands behind the head, elbows out to keep the chest open. Extend through the heel of your straight leg, keeping the foot flexed. ■ Inhale then exhale, lifting your head and shoulder blades off the mat without pressing lower back onto the ground. Inhale and lower head. Repeat for 10 reps, and switch legs.
Cow/cat: Perfect for anyone, but particularly females, who can get a lot of tension in the tissue around their pelvis and back.
■ Begin on your hands and knees in table pose, with a neutral spine. As you inhale and move into cow pose, lift your sit bones upward, press your chest forward and allow your belly to sink. ■ Lift your head, relax your shoulders away from your ears, and gaze straight ahead. As you exhale, come into cat pose while rounding your spine outward, tucking in your tailbone, and drawing your pubic bone forward. ■ Release your head toward the floor — just don’t force your chin to your chest. Most importantly, just relax.
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