I'd like to share a piece from a guest blogger, Julia Soffa. She was a recent teacher trainee in a group I lead through a modified yoga teacher version of my Retreat to Your Root in Nicaragua. I love her thoughtful reflections after our immersion into the multifaceted-ness of pelvic health. Enjoy!Read More
"What the heck is my "root" and why exactly might I want to retreat to it?" is a pretty common question I've been asked as I've shared about my offerings to my patients, my family, my friends, and random strangers at the coffee shop.
When I named "Retreat to Your Root (RTR): A Yoga for Pelvic Health Retreat" I felt it important that the title spoke to what the experience itself would entail (the retreat) and the multiple levels of healing that could take place (in the root). I chose the word "root" for it's complex and multifaceted nature and it's ability to describe all at once the physical, energetic, and emotional components we would touch on.Read More
As a former high level gymnast I was saddened to see the news this week that 3 women who at one time held places on the US National Gymnastics Team have come forward with reports of being sexually abused a national coach using internal “treatment”. For those of you who missed it, there was a ‘60 Minutes’ featuring an interview with three former gymnasts, Jamie Dantzscher, Jessica Howard and Jeanette Antolin, who have now publicly accused their former doctor, Dr. Lawrence Nassar, of repeated instances of sexual abuse. The full report can be found on the CBS website.
This news was upsetting to me in many ways.Read More
I wasn’t necessarily going to address the energetic connections of the pelvic floor in this article, however in light of the intense stress and fear surrounding this election week I think it’s important to at least draw a connection between the physical and energetic bodies. Anatomically the pelvic floor is a group of muscles that sits at the base of your body lining the bowl of your pelvis. Energetically the pelvic floor sits in and surrounds the first (root) chakra of the energetic body. To boil it down really briefly the root chakra represents our basic instinctual survival needs. It deals with things like safety, boundaries, security, our ancestors and family, how supported we feel. Many many of us are feeling threatened in all of these aspects right now so my hope is that perhaps even if you don’t have pelvic floor “issues” these poses might help you to connect with your root (or pelvic floor) in way that is healing to the stressors we all are accumulating in our bodies right now during this trying time in our country.
With fresh inspiration in prepping for my upcoming Yoga for Pelvic Health workshop at Sarton Physical Therapy this weekend, I thought I’d share my 3 favorite yoga poses to help increase pelvic floor awareness, proprioception (the feeling of where we are or a body part is in space), and connection to our roots.
A couple of disclaimers: 1) In my workshops I go through a full lecture on anatomy and function prior to teaching yoga postures because having a clear mental image of these structures is key in making the mind/body connection to this “foreign” area of our bodies. For the sake of time today I’m going to refer you to my good friend Rachel Gelman, DPT's ANATOMY BLOGS for MEN AND WOMEN in order to get you acquainted to the pelvic floor. 2) I’ve spent the last year and half developing yoga programs for a variety of different kinds of clients so my advice is to always consult with a trained physical therapist for a full evaluation of your pelvic floor- especially if you have pain!
With of all that said the following are 3 of my favorite poses for pelvic awareness, how to perform them, and most importantly what to think about while moving through the postures. These poses are generally appropriate for anyone (though there are some exceptions) building awareness of their pelvic floor and looking to facilitate the mind/body connection.
Cat and Cow Poses
- Start in a table top position with a neutral spine. Make sure your hands are right under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips.
- Inhale into Cow pose by tilting or spilling your pelvis forward and extending your spine. Gently look up and pull your chest forward through your hands to gain length. As you do this imagine your inhale filling your pelvic bowl and the area between your sitting bones. See if you can sense a widening and softening at your perineum to release the pelvic floor.
- Exhale into Cat pose by gently flexing or rounding your spine and looking to your belly. DO NOT overly tuck the pelvis, but take note of how this pose gently engages your pelvic floor compared to Cow.
- Repeat each pose, moving with your breath 5-10 times and notice sensation in your pelvis/ pelvic floor. Feel your pelvic bowl expanding and softening especially in Cow pose. Also notice any emotions or changes in energy as you bring your awareness into your root.
- Modifications: This pose can be performed in an upright kneeling position, sitting in a chair, or in standing if needed.
- Starting on your hands and knees, bring your big toes to touch and your knees almost as wide as your mat.
- Slowly sit your pelvis back towards your heels as your forehead rests on the floor with your arms in a comfortable and supported position. Only sit into this pose to where you feel a GENTLE stretch in your perineum if you have any pain at all.
- The goal of this posture is restorative in this example so get as comfortable as you can (see use of props on right, or use a bolster/pillow under your chest if needed).
- As your spine elongates breathe into your low back, sacrum and pelvic floor. See if you can make more space in your pelvic bowl. Breathe down into the base of your body and feel your perineum (the area between your vagina and anus) lengthen and expand. Stay and breathe and notice any feelings that come up for 10-20 rounds of breath.
- Modifications: You can perform this pose with a variety of props, in a chair with your hands on a table, in a squat position, or standing at a wall with your hands on the wall if needed.
Supported Bridge Pose
- Start off on your back, lift your pelvis, and slide a yoga block or a small towel roll under your sacrum. You want a gentle hip elevation so that your pelvic floor is slightly on slack which allows the pelvic floor to release and “drop more effectively.”
- Relax your pelvis into your prop and breathe into the root of your body, your sacrum, and your pelvic floor. Notice what it feels like to connect to this part of your body.
- Breathe here for 2-5 minutes. Take your time coming out of the pose by gently removing the prop and lying flat on the floor for another 30 seconds. Notice any sensations or feelings that arose.
Perform these poses once a day and especially when you notice tension arising in your body. You can also practice bringing awareness into your pelvic floor, perineum, and sacrum throughout your day by noting sensation and consciously sending your breath down into your pelvic bowl. Observe the grounding effects of these simple practices and how they make you feel. If they make you feel good.... do them more!
The light in me honors and sees the shining light in you,
Ok, nobody's vagina NEEDS to go on retreat...but then again, nobody really needs to travel to the world to find themselves or do 100 vinyasas a day to find enlightenment, either. We practice because we know and value the benefits it brings to our daily life. Well, as a CYT and Doctor of Physical Therapy (PT) with a specialty practice in pelvic health I have found that together, yoga and PT can heal and radically improve the lives of patients and yogis alike...and I can tell you with professional certainty that your vagina is an important part of the Mind-Body-Spirit equation.Read More
It’s always nice to attend a continuing education course that involves savanasa (or “lying on the floor resting pose” for you non-yogis). It’s even nicer to be part of a pelvic floor continuing education course which doesn’t involve everyone disrobing from the waist down and practicing on each other. For you pelvic floor therapists out there, I know you know what I mean. For the rest of you, let’s just say our education is experiential! I have to say that it’s refreshing to trade the usual lube and gloves routine for yoga mats and practice breathing!Read More
My greatest apologies for those of you have been waiting for Part II of Amy’s story! Exciting things have been happening over here in sunny Southern California with the new practice and lots of amazing professional opportunities. If you can recall a couple of weeks ago I began a case study about a former patient named Amy*. Amy had a two year history of pelvic pain associated with some gastrointestinal issues and a stressful lifestyle. Check back to Mind-Body Case Story Part 1 if you haven’t yet read her history or my objective findings. Today we'll cover my assessment, treatment plan, goals for recovery, and most importantly, how a mindful approach to physical therapy helped to heal Amy's pelvic pain!Read More
My third blog was going to be a little bit more information about me, but that's going to have to wait because on Monday night I saw Shannon Cohn's documentary "Endo What?" and IT WAS AMAZING. Not only was the movie itself incredible, but the panel of specialists who spent an hour discussing endometriosis after the film was top-notch. Shannon's resume and welcoming smile are a killer combo of super smart accomplished lady and the ultimate genuine advocator. She has created a heartfelt and comprehensive film that is SO necessary for increasing endometriosis awareness, and I encourage you all to go watch it!Read More