If there were ever a body blind spot, it certainly would be the pelvic floor.

In sports, movement classes, private coaching, Physical Therapy, etc., the pelvic floor has historically been left alone. Many of the professionals working with these clients don’t even mention it.

After I suffered a significant spine injury over a decade ago, not one person in a whole host of talented and educated professionals ever mentioned my pelvic floor, let alone addressed it as part of my recovery. My injury was in the cervical spine (neck), so why would they have brought it up?

The missing piece at the time was that I had pelvic floor dysfunction, causing instability. I was also an intense thrill-seeker and pushed my body hard. Add in a few other factors, and I had a recipe for a spine injury–which lead to two years of living with chronic nerve pain.

Discovering Pelvic Floor Dysfunction Therapies

I was missing this piece in my recovery until I had a baby. After giving birth, I wanted to be sure my body was operating the way it should to prevent issues down the road. So I went to a Physical Therapist who specializes in pelvic care.

This is when the effects of restoring health to the pelvis blew my mind.

Author Stephanie Leger and her daughter Willa

I discovered I had a chronically tight pelvic floor. But as you might already know, tight doesn’t mean strong.

Being able to turn muscles on and off is integral to the health of the body. My pelvic floor muscles didn’t know how to naturally take a break. Because of this, they were constantly in a state of panic—clenching and fatigued, which blocked their ability to get stronger in order to properly support me.

This led to my professional specialization in breath, massage, and strengthening practices to restore pelvic floor health.

I’m writing this article to empower you to ask questions and seek professionals who will look at how your entire body is functioning, not just the one or two problem areas you walk in with.

I’m also sharing these practices so health and fitness professionals will consider expanding their knowledge base with how the whole body is connected–including the pelvic floor.

Addressing Pelvic Floor Dysfunction with Therapy Balls

For years now, I’ve been guiding students on how to enhance the health of their pelvic floors. I lead transformative techniques with Roll Model® therapy balls, breath, and movement.

After a workshop that included this work, one gentleman in his 30’s, a firefighter, couldn’t believe how tight his pelvic floor was and how impactful the release was.

Most people I work with have a similar reaction. Releasing the pelvic floor, as I will teach below is empowering because you get to take the health of your body into your own hands.

This work paired with strengthening the pelvic floor will be very helpful if you laugh, sneeze or cough and sometimes go to the bathroom. If you jump up and down or lift heavy weights and then urinate, this work can help you overcome that dysfunction.

The pelvic floor is also an area heavily impacted by hours of sitting and sub-optimal posture. When the body is not aligned—whether it’s sitting, standing, or moving—the pelvic floor must hang on for dear life trying to stabilize the structures of the pelvis and the organs above it.

Important note:

An important piece to keep in mind is that this is an especially vulnerable area for many people. But if you have ever been violated—male, female, or non-binary—this adds even more to the mix. Releasing with the therapy ball and breathing downward might feel extremely empowering, but it also might bring up some big emotions.

I encourage you to take the time to explore your own experience. Also, have trustworthy people available for support, should you want help processing whatever might surface. Go slowly and give yourself space, you deserve it.

How to Use Therapy Balls to Release and Restore Your Pelvic Floor

The first plus of using the therapy balls to release the pelvic floor is that they simply help you have access to it.

If you have been pregnant you might have been told to manually “massage” the area with oil to prevent tearing during the birth of your baby. If you have tried this, you can appreciate that it is not very comfortable (or accessible) positioning.

The ball setup pictured below enables every person, regardless of their flexibility, to ease into releasing the pelvic floor.

This work can be done while sitting in a chair or on the floor using props under you–the ball position is the same. To do the work on the floor, use yoga blocks (books work, too) and stack them to fit your dimensions.

Use an older Yoga Tune Up® therapy ball, or if you only have a brand new one, break it in with your feet prior to doing this work. You can also wrap the ball in a towel or blanket to soften the intensity.

Place the ball on the props and slowly descend your body down toward the ball. You want the ball to nestle into the center of the transverse perineal muscles.

On female anatomy, this is behind (posterior to) the vaginal hole and in front of (anterior to) the anus. On male anatomy, the spot is behind (posterior to) the scrotum and in front of (anterior to) the anus. See the diagram of a female pelvic floor below for reference. Place the therapy ball where the gray circle is.

Follow these steps to get the therapy ball in place.

You are not alone if you get confused placing the ball! I promise. (Many of us have not been encouraged or given permission to anatomically understand this area of the body.)

Once you have settled your weight onto the therapy ball, make sure you are able to breathe easily and aren’t holding your breath. You might be shocked by how much sensation you feel. Take slow, easy exhales and let your inhales naturally respond once you empty yourself of air. If the ball provides too much sensation, use the soft Coregeous® ball instead, pictured at the top of this post.

Next, shift your weight around on the ball with tiny movements. Move a little more to the front of the ball, and then the back. Be mindful of the tailbone—you never want to put any pressure on this area.

Finding different edges around the perineum, allow the ball to snuggle into different angles and nooks. Spend 30 seconds or a minute starting out. Then remove the ball.

Position your spine in neutral (which means there is a natural curve in your low back, shoulders are neither rounded forward or pulled back, head over your lungs.)

Breath Practice to Sense and Engage the Pelvic Floor

Now try to breathe down into where the ball was previously. Allow the breath to drop lower without forcing it. Seek a balloon-like sensation in the pelvic floor with the tissue softening on inhale. On exhales, sense your soft tissue/perineum/pelvic floor area come back up into the body.

Try this for a few rounds.

If you aren’t getting any feedback, on your next exhale actively LIFT the pelvic floor. Please do not clench or tighten. Picture an elevator rising up.

When you begin this work, sometimes it is easier to activate a few exhales before you will even feel the tissues release on inhale.

If you aren’t feeling anything, that is absolutely okay. I have had hundreds of students over the years unable to do this at first. Consider adding the above release and breathing strategy to your movement diet a few times a week. Consistency and patience is key.

As you continue to practice you will create new brain channels of movement for the body to wake up the musculature. The goal is to retrain this area and teach it both to release and engage, not just engage.

Practicing this style of breathing is strengthening your body. It is the piece I was missing; I never learned the pelvic floor should release on inhale until I attended a yoga therapy conference four years ago. In many yoga circles, we are taught to release or let go on the exhale, so for me, activating my pelvic floor on the exhale was foreign and took time and practice to embody.

Strengthening Exercises for Pelvic Floor Dysfunction

The next step after the self pelvic floor massage and breathing is to add movement.

Set yourself up in bridge pose prep: lay on your back with feet and knees approximately hip-distance apart. Maintain a neutral spine (low back is naturally arched away from the floor).

For the first few breaths, rest on the ground in this position.

 

As you inhale, encourage the pelvic floor to soften.

As you exhale, first lift through the pelvic floor, then engage your lower abdominals just above your pubic bone as you continue to exhale—visualize your front hip bones coming together.

Your body has not lifted; you are on the ground still laying in bridge pose prep.

If you aren’t feeling the hipbone piece, that’s okay. After I had my daughter this was a Bermuda Triangle of feeling (or lack thereof).

Please keep sending the message to your body and working through this. It might take some time to get it so be patient with your body and yourself.

Continue trying to inhale down to soften, then exhale to lift up through the pelvic floor and bring the frontal hip bones together. (They won’t drastically move together, but we are asking the lower abdominals to engage and this is the sensation you want to be feeling.)

Bridge Pose to Strengthen and Tone the Pelvic Floor

For the next piece: inhale to soften all effort and soft tissue, then on an exhale lift through the pelvic floor, mentally engage the muscles to bring your hip bones closer together, THEN you can pick up your pelvis, low back, middle back, and upper back off the ground to come into bridge posture.

This bridge is not about “rolling” your spine up or down. Keep a neutral spine as you lift the hips.

Hold at the top for an inhale, try to soften through the pelvic floor.

On your exhale, FIRST, lift up through the pelvic floor, try to close the hip bones towards each other, then come down the upper back, middle back, lower back, hips.

Please resist rolling down—catch yourself if you do and keep your spine in neutral as you go up and down. Inhale again at the bottom.

Do this from start to finish for a few rounds, a few times a week. Remember to initiate the movement first on exhale with the pelvic floor and your lower abdominals, then move your body up off the floor.

Taking This Pelvic Floor Work Into Daily Life

You can add this breathing style and pelvic floor initiation prior to moving throughout the day. For me, the first several yoga classes, working out at the gym, and rollerblading with my daughter in a stroller were very challenging/interesting with this style of movement initiation.

Go easy on yourself. Recognize this as a journey with no judgment on yourself or others. It took a lot of time, dedication and patience, but once my pelvic floor started functioning correctly, my neck healed on another level. My deep neck stabilizer muscles finally turned back on—something they have not been able to do in over ten years since my initial spine injury. This was very significant. It was a missing piece I had been working toward for the greater part of the last decade.

My neck and body no longer feel as vulnerable and I am enjoying this newfound freedom of movement, strength, and stability.

Start where you are with what you can grasp, and keep learning and exploring. The more you practice and connect with your pelvic floor, the more your body will start to do it naturally.

I hope you enjoy adding these new ways to create stability, strength, and release in your life as these components are critical to a healthy and happy body.

 

Shop this post: For pelvic floor massage, get Original Yoga Tune UP Therapy Ball Pair (used in the pelvic floor massage technique), or the Coregeous® ball (seen in the feature image and as a substitute for the Original Therapy Balls).

 

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Stephanie Leger

Stephanie Leger is a certified Yoga Tune Up® instructor and teaches therapeutic movement, yoga, breath work and meditation in a variety of settings - group classes, workshops and private sessions. She specializes in postpartum recovery as well as students working through injuries and chronic pain. Her sessions are thoughtfully designed to strengthen the body, promote healthy range of motion and improve flexibility. Stephanie's goal is to empower students to listen to their bodies so they are their own greatest advocate for health and well being. She is also the creator of a meditation series for kids, while also offering a host of recorded meditations for little ones and adults.

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Kara Stafford

Thank you for the thoughtful article and bringing attention to this piece that is missing for so many people! “As above, so below” my body worker friend always says what happens at the top of the spine will be mirrored at the bottom. I never thought about how to link this in teaching movement practices to students, but now I totally see it! Thank you so much for the thoughtful and detailed excercises, breath work, and tips, and for being willing to share your personal experience with this.

Ashley Shears

What an interesting and informative article! Thank you!

Virginia

Thanks for bringing to light the pelvic floor! That is definitely my blind spot after three natural child births, and I’ve ignored it both voluntary and involuntary for my whole life! Looking forward to my first step:mapping with the YTU balls! Thank you for this wonderful article.

Sigrún Haraldsdóttir

Unfortunately this subject has been a taboo where I come from. But it is becoming something that people are talking about and not just women. I have had so many male clients that have reached out for advise. Very good blog where you can find all the healing tools necessary, a lot of the time I see people just do one of the above. This combination is perfect for everyone to feel empowered.
The breathing brings the proprioception to a maximum.

Veronica Costa-Bolton

Very accessible article for an area of the body that is so important but often ignored. I appreciated the referencing to the male pelvic floor since too often it is thought of as a “female issue”.

Rani Bechar

I am going to read this post over and over ! There’s so much info packed in here I feel overwhelmed ! I can’t wait to try some of these exercises . There’s a definite correlation between stress and me tightening my pelvic floor. These exercises look so relieving !

Rosalynn (Roz) Adams

Great blog for a subject not shared often enough. Thank you for your courage to share and speak on a quiet conversational topic

sheila ewers

This is such an important topic. I teach mostly women over 50, and almost all of them desperately need to awaken awareness and mobility in the pelvic floor.

Rose Moro

Thanks for the great discussion about pelvic floor. I love the connection of pelvic diaphragm to breath. We forget how important our pelvic floor health is to us as women. Ready to explore more.

Missy Tillman

This is such a huge topic and of great significance. I appreciate the careful approach to people that this is a journey and will look different for each individual it so worth stepping into

Sara Wang

Interesting to learn the yoga tuneup balls can be used on virginal area.

Tara Young

So hopeful to find this article. Thank you and great detailed information

Megan White

Thanks for writing on this subject, I would love to see more information regarding pelvic floor and normalizing that it is an area we need to address.

Tune Up Fitness

Ask and ye shall receive! Stay tuned in this year for some fun surprises. 🙂

Stephanie Leger

You are very welcome! And I’m thrilled that there is going to be more on this topic from Tune Up Fitness as mentioned in the comment below. The pelvic floor is an important part of every single body and absolutely should be normalized in discussions. I’m with you and I am very hopeful that the tides are turning and great shifts are happening so that we are all empowered through knowledge – whether we are a teacher or a student.

Julie Hecock

The pelvic floor is such an interesting topic which I would like to expand my knowledge in. Including male and female with breath to movement gives this practice a way I can empower myself and help my students find empowerment.

Stephanie Leger

Yes! Breath to movement and empowering every student is such a good take away from the article. Male and female. I wish you the best as you learn more and bring it back to your students! Feel free to share what you learn by posting it here, I am constantly a seeker of knowledge, too!

Tristina Kennedy

I very much appreciate the exercises you’ve outlined here & can’t wait to bust out my YTU ball to try the first one! I think that I had too many years as a yoga practitioner where Mula & Uddiyana Bandha (and as a woman, kegels) were glorified as things that would give us super powers. It wasn’t until I started taking vocal lessons that my teacher called me out on the fact that I was really only breathing into my chest. I was chronically engaging these bandhas in regular day to day stuff! It has been an interesting journey to… Read more »

Stephanie Leger

You nailed a very important aspect. Over activating the bandha’s and being told to constantly kegel can cause problems. I would love the conversation to shift to one of strength and relaxation. To teach how to turn on and off – as the ability to release is just as important as the strength. I am right there with you. I had to learn how to consciously break those holding and tightening patterns. Thank you for joining in on the conversation and adding such a beautiful and relevant comment.

Barbara Resendiz

This is a very interesting article, it´s true that we don´t talk a lot about our pelvic floor, but after 3 pregnancies now I understand that we cannot underestimate our pelvic floor. I think that for a good health in general we need to have both, strong abdominals and strong pelvic floor. Thanks for sharing this amazing info.

Stephanie Leger

3 pregnancies! Well done and good for you to understand the need for strong abdominal support and pelvic floor. Both areas need to be strong and they also both need to be able to enter into a relaxed state. On and off. Thank you for taking the time to comment, it means a lot!

Mariana

It’s amazing that just yesterday I was having a pelvic floor conversation with my students and now I’m reading this (& already shared it with them!) and my really glad more and more people are talking about this “taboo” area of the body. Many people thinks that kegels are the solution to all pelvis floor related issues, but the truth is, there’s so much more to it. And as you say, we are really disconnected from this area and approaching it takes time, softness, patience and a gentle disposition to discovering new sensations and feeling our body in a whole… Read more »

Stephanie Leger

Hi there! I love that you are sharing this article with you students. That’s amazing, they are so lucky to have you! I agree, there is so much to this area. In regards to your question about the neck and pelvic floor connection, there are so many ways they connect. They both individually need to have their deep stabilizers working to function correctly. There also needs to be a stable base to work from so if there are issues/weakness/tightness etc in the pelvic floor it will throw off the body. In addition, they both have diaphragms that work together. So… Read more »

Maria Kiekari

A journey into pelvic floor!! what i love about your article is that you also talk about male pelvic floor, almost all the articles and persons i have heard talking about pelvic floor dysfunction only address female pelvic floor, but men also will benefit enormously with this exercises like the firefighter you mentioned. I have been in this pelvic floor journey and found out my breath was not coordinated with my pelvic floor movement, i was squeezing the pelvic floor muscles while i was inhaling and it was very tight, when i found out more about this magic spot and… Read more »

Stephanie Leger

Yes! I couldn’t agree more. And men, they are completely left out of the conversation and they shouldn’t be. Thank you for picking up on that! I’m glad you have found the way to breathe with your pelvic floor – so many people still do what you used to do. You are not alone! This magic spot absolutely impacts so much of our body – it is all connected in such a miraculous way.

Matty Espino

Thanks for the great article! To be honest, I’ve never thought too much about my pelvic floor health and truly assessing how it is doing. It’s such a rarely talked about thing in most contexts of my daily life and surprisingly not talked about much in my movement practice. I’m curious to see how these self-care techniques will go and what I discover. Thanks!

Stephanie Leger

I’m glad you enjoyed the article! I know, I never thought about my pelvic floor and I’m so grateful that I finally found the connection after a decade. Good luck with the self care techniques and integrating the strategies in your movement practices, too!

Kimberly McWilliams

Pelvic health and discovering how to share the techniques fo r health is of great to me. Thank you for this super helpful article

Stephanie Leger

You are very welcome – thank you for the thoughtful note.

Jenny

I found this so interesting, Stephanie. I read your blog post because my sister had pelvic floor surgery. I wonder if her back pain could be helped by addressing the pelvic floor. I’ve never addressed mine either so I’m looking forward to trying out these exercises and sharing them with my sister. Thanks!

Stephanie Leger

Wow – yes, working on the pelvic floor is certainly not going to negatively impact your sister and I would be so interested to know if it does alleviate her back pain. However, I don’t know what kind of surgery she had. The breathing and movements should be okay, just make sure she checks in with her Dr before doing any of the manual ball work. Try them out yourself and please do share them with your sister. I’d love to hear how it goes – if you feel inclined please keep in touch.

Vivi Sørensen

In my late teens, I would experience so much pain in my abdominal area and I was told by a physycal therapist that my my pelvic floor was too tight. As I’m r egnant now, this is a big concern of mine and I will add this these exercises to my personal practise. Thank you!

Stephanie Leger

Wow! You are lucky to have come in contact with someone who even addressed this. I highly recommend the releasing and re-educating the muscles with the breathing mentioned in this article. If you have access, heading to a Pelvic Floor PT before birth might make a lot of sense especially in terms of recovery and healing after pregnancy. Congratulations on the bump – what and exciting time!!

Robert

Such an important topic that is so often overlooked or not addressed, especially for men! Thanks for such a clear presentation of process and placement.

Stephanie Leger

Thank you! I’m glad you liked the article and agree that pelvic floor health is very important and relevant for men, too!

Charlotte Bradley

Someone pointed me in the direction of your blog post today and I was intrigued! It’s true, pelvic floor health is often overlooked. I was just trying the bridge you described. I think I will need to repeat this several times before really getting it. Thanks for the info 🙂

Stephanie Leger

I’m so glad someone passed this on to you – what a great friend! I’m here if you have any questions.

Jennifer Freymond

I look forward to trying this on my own, thank you Stephanie!

Stephanie Leger

Of course! Let me know how it goes.

Vera

Thanks to contributing solid information to my newest fascination: pelvic floor health. What is unseen can also easily become a blind spot for many of us.

Stephanie Leger

You are very welcome and what a compliment – thank you! Yes, pelvic floor health is such an easy blind spot. Not only unseen, but traditionally not talked about. A very dangerous combo!

Tisha

I really appreciate this article because of the awareness it brings to the community. This is something that I’ve only begun to learn about in the last few years, but the pelvic floor is so important to learn more about. More and more of my clients are asking about help with the pelvic floor. Of course, I am no expert, but I am exploring local Pelvic Floor PTs and other specialist whom I can partner with or at least refer folks to. The first time I ever heard about pelvic floor dysfunction was in the YTU ball rolling trainings. I… Read more »

Stephanie Leger

Thank you – yes I couldn’t agree more with you. If you are interested in finding pelvic floor specialists in your area you might try searching for them here: https://pelvicguru.com/directory/?fbclid=IwAR1Kd594-YB4reRaMsBll02Yf2itpZBGEAd5o0qFHIWt10hKIO_tD55ttXg you can also visit your local OB’s and hopefully they have referrals that they trust. I highly recommend referring out when you suspect something might be going on that is out of your area of expertise. I work closely with a local pelvic floor specialist and we’ve seen amazing results with this combination of health care and support.

Nancy Triscuit

Thank you for sharing – You’ve explained this in a very thorough and understandable way. I am attending the Tune up ball training in September and am very excited to bring this information to my Yoga classes!

Stephanie Leger

Yes! I love this. I’m excited you are taking the training and are inspired to bring this work into your yoga classes. It’s so important.

Sara M

Thank you for the beautiful, thorough explanation. This is an area that most of us need to get to know better but it’s scary and hard to find good instruction on how to approach it. Love the gentle introduction.

Stephanie Leger

Thank you – that means a lot. It is hard to find good instruction. I appreciate you taking the time to comment on the article.

Marta Hanrahan

I love the diagrams here! Thanks for sharing!

Stephanie Leger

Me too! I’m a visual learner so the diagrams help a lot! I’m happy to share and I’m glad you enjoyed the article.

Katelyn

This is the best article for postpartum until pelvic floor PT becomes standard care (hopefully one day). Pelvic floor issues are a blind spot for many women whether or not they have birthed a child. Thank you for providing clear education on this often misunderstood area of the body.

Stephanie Leger

Wow! What a big compliment – thank you! I do hope that pelvic floor PT becomes standard care. Yes, all women whether or not they have birthed a child – men, too should all be aware of the health of their pelvic floor. I’m so glad you get the importance of it.

Melanie Hale

I have just started exploring the possibility of pelvic floor dysfunction in my own body, so I appreciate the detailed explanation of several methods to release and strengthen the pelvic floor. I plan to try these soon. Thanks for sharing…

Stephanie Leger

I am so happy to hear Melanie! You are not alone, it is very common and I am thrilled to hear you are on a path to healing. Keep me posted how it goes – the work I refer to is so potent for getting the body back into a functional place. Should you desire more support, please know there are very talented professionals out there. I couldn’t recommend working with a pelvic floor Physical Therapist enough.