Pelvic Floor Breathing in Yoga
Let's talk about pelvic floor breathing and how crazy important the breath is in yoga for the pelvic floor.
Maybe I'm unusual, but I think six breaths is just about perfect when doing yoga for the pelvic floor, and I treat my yoga practice as a pelvic floor breathing exercise.
Yin yoga holds postures for several minutes, but I find my mind wanders and I lose focus. Quick postures and yoga flows feel good but are not so great when focusing your attention on stretching the muscles below the belt. In my classes, I always recommend that students focus on taking six deep ujjayi breaths before moving on to a new stretch.
Pelvic floor breathing in yoga. Inhale and 1) feel the chest rise up, 2) feel the rib cage expand, and 3) allow the belly to expand naturally as air presses down into the pelvic floor.
Six questions about breath count when doing exercises for the pelvic floor:
1. Why do you recommend six breaths?
This breath count is nice because it allows me to hold each posture for a little over a minute. It's not so long that my students get bored and is enough to ensure the pelvic floor muscles have enough time to really feel the stretch. Now, keep in mind that my breaths are naturally deep and long, so it may take you more breaths to hold for a full minute.
2. What if my breaths are not as long as the teacher's breaths?
Don't worry about it! Yoga teachers practice yoga... a lot... so they tend to have naturally long breaths. When you're in class and find that you reach number six while your annoying slow-breathing teacher is only at three, just continue to breathe until the teacher cues you to exit the posture. Do what works best for your body. If you feel like you're good and will not benefit from a longer hold, then you can come quietly out of the posture on your own time.
3. How do I learn to take deeper breaths in my yoga class for the pelvic floor?
Practice! The more frequently you practice yoga, the longer your breaths will become. I've been doing yoga off and on for over 20 years, and find that if I stop practicing for a long time that it takes me a few months to reclaim my deep breaths. My recommendation is that you try taking deep breaths that are comfortable for you as you move through your practice and that you practice yoga two or three times a week. You'll likely find you breathe deeper and easier as time goes on. Remember, it's really important to maintain a neutral pelvis while breathing in a yoga class so that you work the muscles evenly. You can find more details on how to align the hips as well as how to breathe in some recent blog posts.
4. Is it okay to hold my breath in class?
NO! When you breathe in you increase pressure in the pelvic floor. While this can be a good thing for moving the muscles "down there," it may not be the greatest idea to stop the full range of motion. I always recommend keeping your pelvic floor diaphragm moving naturally to gain the best benefits of yoga.
5. Why is Ujjayi breath such a big deal in yoga, and why is it possibly the ultimate pelvic floor breathing exercise?
Ujjayi breath has you breathe through the nose and slightly constrict the back of the throat, which results in a nice ocean sound. It helps you focus, take deeper breaths, and listen to the calming sound. Remember, when you take deep breaths and allow the chest, ribs, and belly to expand, you are giving your pelvic floor the opportunity to move in its full range of motion. It is possibly the best exercise I can think of for helping improve your pelvic floor health. Is ujjayi required in a class focused on the pelvic floor? No way! Is it a good idea to try in case you fall in love with how it can calm the mind? I sure think so!
6. When is it okay to curse my teacher for breathing too long?
Umm... let me put it this way. Your teacher knows from the dirty looks you are giving her that you're not loving her six deep breaths as you hold your least favorite pose. However, she keeps counting because she knows it is good for you. If you insist on cursing, please keep the words only in your mind, and know that it's always okay to come out of a pose early if you're just not feeling it. There is never any judgment in a yoga class for the pelvic floor. Your teacher teaches because she wants to help you. It's as simple as that.
If you are interested in practicing pelvic floor breathing at home, you should explore the online yoga videos at https://www.yogabelowthebelt.com