Pelvic Fitness and Sexual Awareness for Women
The majority of American women are weak in the pelvic area and have been using the muscles of the pelvic floor incorrectly since childhood. The reasons for this are varied, but primarily this is a sedentary culture with customs that rely on sitting, driving, and labor-saving devices that preclude pelvic exertion. Even the current trend towards more exercise does not affect women’s pelvises. Women who work in fields, who squat to perform household chores such as washing and cooking have a more powerful pelvic floor which lends itself to easier labor in childbirth.
The muscles of the pelvic floor help to support the organs in the body, contribute to sexual functioning/pleasure, and help support the upright posture. These muscles form a basket of resilient tissue that looks woven and surrounds the anus, vagina, and urethra in a figure-8 pattern, and attaches to the clitoris and the body structures of the pelvis by ligaments. The figure-8 pattern that surrounds the vaginal-urethral areas makes up the sphincter muscle that opens and closes with voluntary and involuntary control.
Because the condition of the sphincter which surrounds the urethra and vagina is so often poor in American women, concentrating on it in the space of this article makes sense. However, these muscles work together with others, and pelvic health is indicated by the strength and resiliency of the entire system of muscles, made up by the abdominals, the muscles of the lower back and the muscles of the pelvic floor—the pubococcygeal, or P-C muscles.
The following series of exercises was developed by Dr. Arnold Kegel to help women with problems controlling urination. Exercises similar to these as well as many others come from sexual-religious practices in Asia and from hula and belly-dancing. These in particular are designed to strengthen and give voluntary control of the P-C muscle.
In order to identify and isolate the P-C muscle, many women find it helpful to sit on the toilet with legs apart and attempt to start and stop the flow of urine without moving the legs. The muscle that stops the flow is the P-C muscle. To exercise it, start out by tightening the muscle as in order to stop urinating, hold it for a slow count of 3, then relax it. This is a slow Kegel. Start out by doing this ten times, five times a day. Increase the number weekly as it is strengthened. The quick Kegel is when the P-C muscle is tightened and relaxed as rapidly as possible. Repeat ten times, five times a day. The last basic exercise uses the abdominals as well as the P-C muscle. Pull up the entire pelvic floor as though trying to suck water into the vagina. Hold for 3 counts and then push out or bear down as if trying to push the water out. Repeat five times, five times each day.
Some conditions caused by or contributed to by weak pelvic muscles can lead to surgery and include urinary stress incontinence and uterine prolapse. Other conditions that are improved by strengthening these muscles are menstrual pain, conception difficulties, lower back pain, difficulties in menopause, reduced or absent sexual feelings, difficult childbirth, and slow postpartum recovery.
Many women report increased feelings of pleasure and power in the pelvis and stronger orgasms once they have strengthened these muscles. Since these muscles not only encircle the urinary and vaginal openings but are attached to the area around the clitoris, is it any wonder that these exercises can have the benefit of increased sexual awareness?
For more information on the entire system of muscles and a program for strengthening them, see Total Sexual Fitness for Women by Kathryn Lance and Maria Agardy, published by Rawson, Wade Publishers, Inc., New York.