Did you know that sitting, (yup, sitting!) has officially become a major risk factor for disease and mortality in North America? You may not realize this, but that risk factor persists even if you’re among those people who make an effort to get the prescribed 30-60 mins of physical activity every day. The fact is, that when you sit all day, postural and movement habits develop that may not be eradicated by an hour of exercise – no matter how intense or well-planned. And those deep, habitual patterns may create challenges to fitness and health that we have yet to understand.
So, aside from getting up for regular movement breaks during your work day, or investing in a standing treadmill desk, what can you do? If you asked 10 different people that question, you’d get 10 different answers. Since my expertise lies in the areas of movement and structural health, I think one of the most important things you can do is to perk up your pelvis!
Think about it. In a sitting position, your pelvis doesn’t get to move much. It still carries the load of your upper body, but most people don’t sit “well,” so the position challenges good function in the spine, the hips, knees and all kinds of other places. When you stand up after sitting for a while, you might notice that your hips are a little stiff. Perhaps your back is sore. Maybe your knees hurt. Bringing a little life and motion into your overly-sat-upon-pelvis can bring some relief to all of those things, and will support your better in all your life’s activities.
The pelvis is an important, often ignored link between the spine and the limbs. It works a little like an arch, allowing efficient transfer of the forces of weight, gravity and motion from the spine and upper limbs through to the legs and feet. The muscles on the floor of the pelvis provide support for internal organs and for breath function. The ability of the pelvic floor to move well (not just contract) plays a role in having really satisfying sex. So, for the sake of your health, your moving body and your sex life, why not take a little time to bring some awareness, energy and motion to your pelvis?
In exercise circles, a lot of attention is paid to the to the external musculature, the gluteal muscles in particular. But most of the time, the structure and inner workings of the pelvis are neglected. Either that, or people do their ‘kegels’ or other such exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor; without really understanding what they’re strengthening. Does this sound familiar? You go to your exercise class and the instructor tells you to engage the pelvic floor. You draw some tension into the “stopping-a-flow-of-pee” muscles. But are you really engaging the pelvic floor? You may feel an engagement, but are you engaging the stuff that’s going to make a difference? Often not.
Years ago, I was working with an ER physician who, for a number of reasons, needed to bring some strength into his pelvic floor. After working on a number of ways to connect to those muscles with no results, he finally said to me in frustration “Sue that requires a level of pelvic floor control that I just can’t even imagine!” He was frustrated with what I was asking him to do – and I realized that simply engaging a muscle was not going to work for him, and in fact, was not always the best choice. (Face palm moment… as I know that that is true in all other aspects of the body in motion too.) It wasn’t more muscle that was needed. It was motion.
I realized that in order for him to be able to FEEL the pelvic floor and connect to it in a conscious way to develop better function in his core, he needed to feel motion in the pelvis. He was a fit, active and seemingly very healthy guy, with a passion for mountain biking (active sitting – but sitting nonetheless). Once he began to move the pelvis differently; stretching and activating the pelvic floor, becoming more aware of his bones as he moved… he was able to properly connect to the pelvic floor, activate the muscles he needed and gained the support and mobility he was looking for!
Take 5 minutes, right now, to connect to the bones of the pelvis, feel those bones relative to other bones, and “wake up” the pelvic floor, bringing motion and energy into a part of the body that is often either just too lax, or too tight to function at its best. And you can do it right there, at your desk!!
Sit on the front edge of your chair, with feet on the floor, legs at hip width apart. Relax your thighs, let the creases of your hips feel deep and soft. Imagine some gentle length in your spine, shoulders and arms relaxed, crown of the head to the sky.
1. Sitting Hinge Forward, Flat Back
Hinge your torso forward, reaching the sitz bones toward the back of the room, widening them at the same time. The pubic bone will feel as though it’s dropping long between the thighs. Imagine the sitz bones initiating the motion, instead of driving forward through the front of the hips or an arched back.
Maintaining the long spine, gradually bring the body back to upright, feeling the sitz bones narrow slightly underneath you as you return to your starting position. They’ll feel a little like the “feet” for your pelvis – sitting right underneath you. All the way through, leave the buttocks and the muscles around your tailbone soft and relaxed. This action is really a rocking back and forth on the sitz bones. Repeat this 10 – 12x
2. Take your Sitz Bones for a Walk!
Sitting as above, with the core gently engaged, lift one sitz bone off the chair and move it forward – as though you are taking a step. And then do the same thing on the other side. Walk the sitz bones forward on your chair, several times, 4-5x.
Then stand up and see how you feel! Do your legs feel more grounded? Can you feel your feet more? Does your waist feel longer? Leave a comment below if you’re feeling inspired!
If a little more zip in your sex life is what you’re looking for – try these before your next intimate moments. You may find, with some practice, energizing the pelvic floor can bring a little extra something yummy to the experience.