Are You Doing Your Kegels the Wrong Way?
Kegel exercises (in which you squeeze and release the muscles which control urine flow) can offer a multitude of benefits. Regular Kegels can keep your pelvic floor strong and strengthen and tone the vagina, which can lead to better orgasms as well as better bladder control. (Men can also benefit from regular Kegel exercises too, including improved erectile function, but this particular blog will be geared towards helping women enhance their Kegel performance).
Although Kegels may seem simple enough, you can find the most benefit from Kegels if you do them mindfully. Many women just squeeze and tighten everything ‘down there’ when they do Kegels, but that’s not the best way to truly isolate and fine-tune your pubococcygeal (PC) muscles.
In order to really hone that mind-body awareness and get the most out of your Kegels, I often recommend the Kegel Flower exercise to my female patients. It can really help you identify the key muscles and how to exercise them effectively. Below I will take you through it:
Take a few deep breaths, inhaling fully through your nose, and then powerfully exhaling all that air out through your mouth.
Now, squeeze your pelvic floor muscles as tight as you can, lifting and tightening inside your vagina, your Kegels, and your anus. Now take a deep breath through your nose …and hold it. As you do so, visualize yourself closing up like the petals of a flower as they close up to protect their delicate buds. There is both strength and gentleness in this delicate action.
Next, blow all the air out of your mouth in a whoosh as you relax all your muscles, and open your vagina, anus as wide as you can, like a wide-open flower in bloom. Now let it all rest gently open.
Let’s do this one more time. Once again, squeeze your Kegel muscles inward and hold in a breath, tightening up like a flower closing its petals once again. Hold your breath, squeeze, squeeze, squeeze, and now, blow that air out your mouth and open up wide, resting gently open.
Do you see the difference between clenching those muscles and opening them? Now, this next time, put your attention on this resting, gently closed state of your vagina. If you need to do another kegel flower breath to get there feel free! But from this gentle place, we’re going to squeeze as you did before, but THIS time, only the front.
Imagine you are squeezing just around your vagina, even picture squeezing upfront around your clitoris. Your anus is completely relaxed or open. Do you feel the difference? The front part tightened, the behind relaxed. This requires you to tap into that mind-body connection, because it sometimes feels a bit tricky at first. But, once you get the hang of it, you will be doing a true Kegel – that is, intense, mindful vaginal contractions without the puckering or tightening of the anus.
If you’re standing, it can be helpful to lay your hands on your bum as you do this: If you feel your butt clenching up when you’re Kegeling, then you’re actually working your sphincter and that’s not what we are going for – but don’t be discouraged! This stuff takes practice and it’s not second-nature until you really invest the time.
You can watch me on IGTV here demonstrating how to get the most out of your Kegel exercises.
You should do a few hundred of these Kegel contractions a day, but let’s just shoot for 50 a day to get you started if you are new to this and work your way up! You don’t have to do the flower breath every time, but it certainly helps. Do your Kegels in traffic, waiting in line at the drive-thru, while cooking dinner, when you’re watching television at night, or while you’re bored in a long meeting. Once you become a pro at these, increase your number and keep trying to set new goals for yourself.You also can work your way up to using dilators or weighted Ben-Wa balls to keep increasing your pelvic floor strength and tone. Shop my dilators here and here and check out my blog on how to use a dilator correctly.