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12:35 am

Yoga for Gardeners

This is a simple yoga sequence to keep the body healthy and easy as you work in the garden this spring.  Practice before and after you work it the garden, and take frequent breaks. Rise up and walk around your garden to unfurl and release the back at least once every 30 minutes.

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11:49 pm

Beyond Kegels: the pelvic elevator

If you’ve been practicing your beginning pelvic floor exercises (aka Kegels), then you’ve discovered that you have voluntary control of the sphincter muscles.  You’ve also begun to have sensory awareness of the hidden foundational structure of your torso.   Simply bringing awareness to this area is a fabulous beginning.  If you haven’t done a week or more of preliminary exercises, read the earlier blog post (Which floor am I on?) and practice for a week or two before proceeding to this exercise. Let’s begin by finding the territory again.  Take a tall and comfortable seat.  Don’t lean back into your chair back, rather rise tall from your pelvis through the crown of your head.  Note the oval-shaped expanse between your tailbone, pubic bone and your two sitting bones. This is the pelvic floor, a surface of muscle and connective tissue on which the bladder and reproductive organs rest. It is one of the few horizontal structures in the body.  Because the pelvic floor continually bears weight, and is put under great stress during childbirth, it will fail if it is not exercised adequately.  These exercises will keep your pelvic floor healthy and your whole body stronger and better able to withstand the stresses of life.  Having a strong pelvic floor is akin to building your home on a strong foundation. Now, close your eyes and focus your attention on your pelvic floor.  Spend a few minutes in meditation, observing the sensations of the pelvic floor. How does the surface respond to your breathing?  Shift your weight side-to-side and watch how the surface responds. Rock your pelvis forward back, in circles and figure eights.   Observe the movements and responses of the pelvic floor. Our exercise for this week is called the ‘pelvic elevator. ’ We will be referring to the pelvic floor as your ‘pelvic elevator.’  Begin by relaxing completely.  Your pelvic elevator drops into the basement of your torso.  With your next exhalation lift the elevator from the basement to first floor and pause, to the second floor and pause, and to the third floor and pause.  Inhale and slowly release the elevator all the way back to the basement.  Exhale and lift, lift, lift. Inhale release smoothly and slowly.  Repeat 10 times in a set, and do up to 4 to 10 sets/day. As you continue with the ‘pelvic elevator’ exercises, you will be able to subdivide the engagements more minutely (stop on more floors) and engage, hold at the top floor longer and relax completely.  As this area becomes stronger and you are able to consciously control the musculature, you will have more stamina in all of your Yoga poses, your Pilates exercises, and you will have greater fitness for all of your physical activities.  You will be less likely to injure yourself.  There are a host of other benefits as well from preventing bladder incontinence to enhancing sexual pleasure and stamina.  The payoffs to this work are well worth the effort. We’ll continue with more pelvic floor exercises in June and explore the meaning of Mula Bandha, the yogic Root Lock.

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10:36 am

Which floor am I on? Chapter 1 Basic Kegels

“What does my pelvic floor have to do with my shoulder pain?” Mary asked me this morning. She came to me for a frozen shoulder. Each session we start with a centering exercise then move into pelvic floor and deep abdominal/back exercises before proceeding to the exercises and stretches that work toward freeing up her shoulder. When I introduced the pelvic floor work, she didn’t know if she was feeling anything, wasn’t sure if she was doing it ‘right.’ This can be frustrating. We haven’t been taught there is muscular ‘down there’ let alone how to exercise it. If we have been taught, it is likely that an MD described kegels. There is a lot more work to do ‘down there.’ “Your pelvic floor is to your shoulder, what your foundation is to your house.” I replied. You need a strong supportive base beneath you so that your shoulders can do their work. Without a strong foundation, the wrong reach, stretch lift or pull will throw out your shoulder. Without a strong foundation you are more likely to injure yourself in day-to-day activities or the small mishaps of life. Without a strong foundation you may end up in surgery some day for conditions we don’t want to talk about in polite company. Therefore, I begin most of my classes with basic pelvic floor work. Here’s a place to begin working on your own: Using your mind, locate your two sitting bones, your pubic bone and your tailbone. This area roughly defines a diamond shape. While the musculature is actually more oval in shape, the boney landmarks and diamond image help us locate the territory. This pelvic floor is a horizontal surface of muscle and connective tissue. These tissues provide the support, flooring if you will, for the abdominal organs. The muscles contract and release, as well as lift and lower to support your abdominal organs. If the muscles become overstretched and weak, the bottom literally falls out from underneath you and your bladder and reproductive organs sag and fall out of place. To build strength in your pelvic floor you need to learn to voluntarily engage and release these muscles. If you have no idea where to begin, think of starting and stopping the flow or urine. There is a sphincter muscle in the front of the pelvic floor that controls the release of the bladder. There is a similar anal sphincter in the back of the pelvic floor. Explore engaging and releasing these two areas of the pelvic floor. 10 sets of 10 engage/release cycles each day are a good beginning. You will begin to build your foundation by increasing your strength and your kinesthetic awareness of this region. This beginning contraction is what many of us have been taught as a ‘kegel exercise’ named for Dr. Arnold Kegel who pioneered the work. We’ll continue next week with more advanced exercises from the Yogic and Taoist traditions that build deeper awareness and strength while generating energy in your body.

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