Breathe & Ease
Yin Yoga for Pelvic Floor Love & Releasing Tension
- Why it might be more important than strengthening the core.
More often than not when we think about fitness we think about strength work. This is especially true when we are talking about the core. It is important for so many reasons to have a strong core. Not only because it might look nice but it keeps our spine healthy by supporting the natural curvatures of the spine. It also supports the functions of the organs in our lower torso, creates balance and overall health. But if you've read some of my other articles about the core you know that a strong muscle is not just about creating tension and activation. It's a balancing act that includes being able to release as well.
How many times have you noticed yourself shallow breathing? Or holding your abdomen in? This holding in , creates chronic tension in the body. Which can be experienced as lower back pain. But it also has a significant impact on our pelvic floor health. Having hypertension is just as problematic as having weakness in the muscles.
In the pelvic floor muscles we might experience side effects like constipation, lower back issues, or even pain during urination or intercourse. These symptoms might indicate hypertension in the pelvic floor and associative muscle groups. This is where yin yoga might help.
What is Yin Yoga?
Yin Yoga is a slower, relaxed branch of yoga. Focusing internally on both the breath and the sensations experienced in the moment. Because the approach is very interoceptive (inner awareness) it becomes a more meditative practice than a physical one. Although it has significant effect on the body as well. In yin we hold postures for 3-8 minutes each, which allows the connective tissues to stretch (fascia). In order to accomplish this in most bodies we need to support the postures by using props. The only way to stretch the fascia tissues is for the muscles to be completely disengaged. So we offload the weight of the body using blocks, blankets, bolsters, straps and even the wall, where ever we might need to.
You might be thinking 3-8 minutes is a long time. If you are a first time Yin Yogi you might want to start with 30 seconds to one minute. The goal is not to hold for a set time even if you are in pain. That is where the interception (inner awareness) comes in. Learn to listen to your body. I like to call the sensation we feel in these moments 'Joyful Discomfort'.
How to Create Joyful Discomfort
- Learn to listen to your body. Pay attention to the signs it is giving you. Is it telling you to adjust, get out of the pose, or go deeper? This awareness takes practice and patience.
- Know the difference between pain and discomfort. Discomfort is dull, achy and tends to unravel and dissipate over time. Pain is sharp, burning, numbness, throbbing, pins and needles, etc. On a scale of discomfort where the end range is taking you towards pain (6-10) you want to be at about a 4 or 5. I feel some sensation but I can relax into it rather than fight against it.
- Don't go right to your edge. This means ease your way in. Because we are holding for so long there is no rush to get there. Relax into it. Especially if you are someone who is more flexible. Backing off a bit can be more beneficially and get into those connective tissues more effectively.
Why Yin Yoga?
- It lengthens the connective tissues. Our pelvic floor is made up of layers of muscle and connective tissues called fascia. Fascia (myo-fascia) is a web of connectivity throughout the body, transferring information about stress, impact, repair, etc. It is vital for our overall wellbeing that our fascia just like our muscle tissues in strong yet supple.
- Yin Yoga can increase our flexibility. Because it targets the fascia that surrounds our muscles cells it increases the elasticity of these tissues. Resulting in greater mobility and flexibility.
- Reduces stress. Because Yin is a slower, interoceptive practice it helps to focus our mind. It is a great mindfulness practice to soothe the nervous system.
Yin Yoga is a great practice for our busy minds and active bodies. It is important to fine tune your interoceptive skills before holding and staying in a pose. Holding while in pain can trigger the nervous system to respond by either jumping into fight or flight, which will feel like you don't want to practice this type of yoga because it doesn't feel good, or it will cause some people to respond by freezing and staying in the pain. This may result in further aggravating symptoms of hypertension and trigger your stress response. Either way it won't feel like a yoga you ever want to do again.
So remember less is more, the breath is important and will let you know if you need to back off or ease in more. If you are clenching or holding the breath or the body back out, adjust, prop up or find a different version.
Check out the next article on my top ten Love Your Pelvic Floor Yin Poses!