What do you think of when you think of yoga? Relaxation? Flexibility? Strength? Balance? Community? Sure, yoga can provide all these things, but were you also aware of the potential benefits to your pelvic floor?
Surprising but true: Yoga is one of many tools that puts a patient in control of their own recovery, and that is something we love to see as physical therapists! Patients need interventions they can rely on when they are not in our offices. And even though yoga does not involve medicine or a physical therapist’s touch, you can still see big changes. It is such a powerful tool that even Herman & Wallace, a respected pelvic health institution, teaches it.
So what is yoga again, exactly?
Yoga is a practice that uses breath, meditation and movement. It involves both the mind and the body, and has the ability to lower stress and blood pressure, promote weight loss or maintenance, and improve heart and blood vessel health. So you could be getting a lot of bang for your buck here!
Yoga’s long history
Its roots are deep — it was created over 5000 years ago in India, but yoga as we know and love it today spread in the West by the 1970s. The 1970s was a time, very much like now, when being healthy was popular. The natural food craze hit after the excesses of the 1950s and 60s, and activities like roller skating and jogging were being revived, so yoga fit right in!
But how can yoga help?
Different poses help in different ways. According to US News & World Report, a squat can feel good if you have pelvic pain or tightness and improve bowel movements, while Yoga Journal reports that Reclining Bound Angle Pose can relax the vagus nerve, which in turn can contribute to the lessening of uncontrollable pelvic muscle contractions.
Where do I go for yoga that will help my pelvic floor?
Finding a good yoga teacher — especially one who understands the connection to the pelvic floor — might be a challenge. You shouldn’t just go anywhere. Your therapist is a great place to start for a recommendation. You can also ask him or her for yoga exercises you can do on your own. It might even be worth it to ask your local hospital. In New York, Northwell Health has created a yoga class for pelvic health, for instance. I personally like Your Pace Yoga, taught by Dustienne Miller, a board-certified physical therapist and yoga teacher, who offers at-home yoga instruction for constipation, vulvodynia, interstitial cystitis and more.
Now that being said, you don’t want to cause any more pain. And although injuries aren’t super common in yoga, if you have hypermobility, you can have a higher chance of being hurt. Or yoga just might not feel right to you or be something you like to do. Never force it! Take your time. Read about it, like you are doing now! Especially ask your doctor if it is right for you, and come to your own conclusions.
But once you safely embark on a regimen that includes yoga — along with other treatments from your physical therapist and medical team as needed — you may find yourself that much closer to the end of your healing journey. And as anyone who has recovered from pelvic floor dysfunction can tell you, that is an amazing place to be.