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Strengthen those pelvic floors – without Kegals

16 Apr

You Don’t Know Squat

Are you ready World?  In the next few years, you are going to be hearing more and more about the health benefits of the squat.  Just like the barefoot movement I blogged about yesterday, the “squat movement” is going to happen in a big way, once everyone realizes that your Pelvic Floor, Hip, and Knee health require regular squatting.  If you haven’t squatted in the last million years (besides the two times you went camping and peed on your shoe), it’s going to take awhile to prepare your joints.  Be patient, it’s worth it.  Those of you with knee and hip replacements are going to have to stick to the first few exercises and avoid the weight bearing squat.  The artificial equipment is not designed to have the same ranges of motion as real joints.  Bummer, I know.  (To stave off surgeries of the hips and knees, start this program now!)

I’ve created a step-by-step squat program from my Aligned and Well program you can begin right now.  All you need is a yoga mat, or thick towel blanket.  At the Institute, we have began a 20-hours in 30-days Squat Challenge.   Join us in reaping the benefits of deep (deep) core muscle conditioning, and sit back (or squat) in disbelief as you realize how tight you have become!  Let’s go…

Place your one foot up on a rolled yoga mat, keeping your heel on the ground. Step forward with the opposite foot to stretch the back calf.
Now step up with both feet and try to lift you tailbone until it looks like…
…this! See the little curve at my low back? This is an indication of an un-tucked, healthy pelvis. If your tailbone slopes down, your hamstrings are too tight for pelvic floor and glute strength!

Before you do any deep squatting, spend 5-10 minutes running through the first two exercises.  They are great for preparing your joints for full flexion (bending all the way).  After you’ve warmed up the back of the calves and hamstrings with a little stretching, it’s time to get down onto your hands and knees.

It is very important that your lower legs and feet track straight back, and are parallel to each other.
Now, from the hands and knee position, drop the hips back as far as you can, without allowing the feet to move closer to each other or allowing the tailbone to tuck under.
Ooops! See how the pelvis tucked? Don’t sit back any farther if your tailbone tucks. This forces your lower back into flexion, stressing the lumbar disks. Instead, come forward, re-lift your bum, and hang out in this position.

When your tailbone tucks, this clearly shows how TIGHT your hips have become!  If you can’t sit back without tucking, it means that your hips are so stiff, they are preventing the regular activity of the Pelvic Floor and Gluteal muscle groups.  Do this a few times a day until you can get back with your tailbone up.

You may also see how we are getting the body in the same position as a “bathroom squat” without loading it.  Better to improve range of motion before you throw all your body weight onto tight joints.

Other fun squatting tips…

If your tailbone is tucking when you sit back, it means that instead of peeing (or other things) in a downward motion, you are actually doing them in a forward motion.  So that’s why you pee all over your shoes.   Maybe you shouldn’t joint the barefoot movement until you’ve mastered the squatting one.  Just sayin’.

Now that you’ve been sitting back, it’s time to make your feet move into their squatting position.  Tuck your toes under and try to get your feet perpendicular to the ground.

Spend some time stretching your feet while sitting back (aaaaand lifting your tailbone!)

Now it’s time to start bearing your body weight.  The strength needed in a squat is not only getting down and lifting up, but also the strength in the lower legs to stabilize the ankles.  Your lower leg muscles will usually fatigue first!  Too keep squats safe for your knees and hips, you must keep the alignment of the lower leg and feet.  Your feet should point forward, they should be placed just slightly wider than the pelvis, and the knees should not be wider or more narrow that the feet.  Your thigh, lower leg, and foot bones should be parallel to each other the entire time.

When you first squat, super tight quads and psoas can increase the pressure in the knees.  Give yourself more joint space by placing the rolled yoga mat where the knee bends.

The “goal” is to keep the pelvis from tucking, as well as try to stretch the heels towards the ground. Hold onto something when you first start, if you’re feeling wobbly!
Also check that your feet and knees are still aligned well…
and they haven’t twisted, and your weight hasn’t shifted to favor one side. Not good for your joints!

After the ankles and lower leg have had a chance to stretch and strengthen, prop your feet up with the rolled yoga mat and gently allow your knees to bend their full range.  Again, it’s very  important that your lumbar spine (the concavity at the lower back) maintain its curve.  Now you know your deeper pelvic floor muscles are toning, your glutes strengthening, and your hips opening!

I’m ready to go camping now!
Don’t let this person borrow your shoes…

Eventually you will be able to maintain the curve in your low back (pelvis position…check!) and get your heels on the ground (foot health…check!)  Until then, use this program as the ultimate total-leg, pelvic floor workout.  Progress through these exercises as you feel comfortable, giving yourself plenty of time (which can be weeks and months even!).  I also like to turn these moves into an hour-long lower body conditioning session when I’m feeling spunky.

And if you’re really bored, you can print out all of these pictures and make a flip book of me squatting.  Now there’s Fun for the Whole Family…

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