Menopause: Strengthen your weakened pelvic floor with three easy poses

Lisa Snowdon details the symptoms of her early menopause

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Having a laugh with your friends could lead to a somewhat damp patch in your underwear – and the dribble of urine could strike at the most inconvenient times. If laughing, jogging, sneezing or coughing causes a little bit of urine to seep out, your pelvic floor might need strengthening. Ruth Maher, the co-inventor of pelvic floor experts INNOVO, highlighted that urinary incontinence affects “one in three women” who have declining oestrogen levels.

Oestrogen – a sex hormone – is made by the ovaries; it is said to “play a part in making sure your pelvic muscles and bladder tissues are strong”.

During the menopause, the ovaries produce less oestrogen, which can affect the pelvic floor muscles and the urethra sphincter – the short tube that passes urine from the bladder out of the body.

The urethra keeps the bladder closed until it is time to urinate.

However, as oestrogen levels dip, the lining of the urethra may thin, making it harder for it to stay closed, thereby leading to leakage.

In order to strengthen the pelvic floor, you must first engage with the core set of muscles.

“To exercise your pelvic floor efficiently, the breath must be involved,” said Mahur.

“Your pelvic floor moves in a dance with your diaphragm when you breathe.

“When we breathe in, the diaphragm moves down, and so does the pelvic floor; when we breathe out, they both move up,” she explained.

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“Start observing this connection and then start bringing the focus on your pelvic floor.”

Mahur recommends to inhale, while keeping the pelvic floor relaxed, and then to exhale and engage the pelvic floor.

To engage the pelvic floor, and to lift it up, Mahur says to “imagine you are holding a wee”.

With a bit of practise, you can expect to engage the pelvic floor more easily.

Once you have mastered engaging your pelvic floor muscles, certain poses can help you to strengthen them.

Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

To do this exercise:

  1. Stand with your feet hip distance apart and your hands resting at your sides
  2. Place a yoga block (or a thick book or pillow) between your thighs.
  3. Engage your inner thighs and try to lift the block upwards.

Chair Pose (Utkatasana)

To do this exercise:

  1. Stand with your feet hip distance apart and your hands resting at your sides
  2. Stretch your arms upwards, lengthen the tips of your fingers towards the ceiling.
  3. Bend your knees, keeping your back as straight as possible, and push your hips back into a squat, as though you’re sitting down into a chair.
  4. Keep your heels connected to the floor, without your hips dipping any lower than your knees.
  5. Hold the posture for a couple of breaths.
  6. Try to lift your pelvic floor upwards, as though you were trying to hold in a wee.
  7. Straighten up again slowly.
  8. Repeat.

Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)

To do this exercise:

  1. Stand with your feet hip distance apart and your hands resting at your sides
  2. Step your right foot forwards (with your front & back foot about 1 metre apart).
  3. Lift your arms straight out to the sides so they are parallel to the floor.
  4. Keep your right foot straight, but turn your left foot out slightly so that your toes are pointing away from your body.
  5. Bend the right knee over the right ankle, keeping your left leg straight.
  6. Tighten your tummy as though you are pressing your belly button to your spine, and pull up the pelvic floor
  7. Hold for about 30 seconds, then straighten the right leg.
  8. Repeat.
  9. Try on the other side.

Pelvic floor exercises are also known as “Kegel exercises”.

At any time, and any where, you can tighten your pelvic floor muscles, hold it for three seconds, and then release.

These Kegel exercises can be repeated throughout the day.

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