Pelvic floor muscles are those that surround the vagina, bladder, and uterus. Most women only think about the role pelvic floor muscles play when it comes to bowel and bladder control as well as pregnancy. But a healthy strong pelvic floor can help everyone have better sex.
“Strong contractions of the pelvic floor helps improve sexual arousal and that helps with orgasm because it increases blood flow to the area and it stimulates the nerves,” says Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist, Heather Dunfee.
However, strong shouldn’t be confused with tight. The pelvic floor muscles need to be able to contract and relax during an orgasm. If the pelvic muscles are too tight or in spasm, as is the case with Vaginismus, they can cause painful sex or prevent a woman from reaching orgasm.
Kegels are a well-known pelvic floor strengthening exercise, but they might not be suitable for women with tight or “hypertonic” pelvic floor muscles and may even exacerbate the problem further. Below, Dunfee talks us through a few simple exercises women can do to relax and stretch their pelvic floor muscles.
1. Diaphragmatic Breathing
“Just like people will hold tension in their shoulders, and they get these tight trigger points up in their shoulder area. People also hold tension in their pelvic floor,” says Dunfee. Which is why she recommends diaphragmatic breathing to release this tension. Dunfee encourages patients to put one hand on their belly and another on their chest and focus on drawing air into their belly instead of their chest. “They should feel the breath expanding through the ribcage, their lower back, visualizing their pelvic floor lengthening or dropping slightly with the inhale and naturally recoiling on the exhale.”
2. Happy Baby
Once patients are comfortable with diaphragmatic breathing, Dunfee encourages them to incorporate the technique into some yoga stretches. “Happy baby is a great position for opening everything up,” says Dunfee. The pose requires patients “to lie on their backs, bend their knees, and lift their hips and legs off the ground while gripping their ankles or feet.”
3. Child’s Pose
Dunfee tells patients to begin on their hands and knees, bringing your big toes together until they touch and positioning your knees about shoulder width apart. Then, “slowly sit your pelvis back towards your heels and rest your forehead on the floor, with your arms forward in a comfortable supported position.” The pose should feel like a “low back stretch, but you're thinking about breathing in through the low back and the tailbone, and that can help lengthen those types of muscles.”