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I Avoid Kegel Exercises in Yoga for Pelvic Floor

You should know that kegel exercises are not the cure to every pelvic floor problem! They even make some pelvic floor dysfunctions worse.

There are cases where kegel exercises are good. However, people who do too many kegels can make their pelvic floor symptoms worse. If you read self-help pages you may see the phrase "just do kegels." As if to say, "Duh! Don't you know this is how you fix all your problems?" Kegel exercises are not a catch-all solution for the muscles between your legs. You may even be doing the exercises wrong without knowing it.

Man holding lower abdomen after kegel exercises increased tension and pain in his pelvic floor muscles.

What is a kegel?

A kegel is often described as a squeeze of the pelvic floor muscles. If you find the muscles you use to pee and squeeze to stop the urine flow (don't really do this!), you've targeted the right muscles.

Aren't kegel exercises always a good idea to strengthen the pelvic floor?

Kegels have their purpose, but may not necessarily be a good thing for you and your health concerns. When done in moderation and under the guidance of a doctor or physical therapist, they can help lift and tighten loose muscles. This can in turn give better support to your bladder, rectum, and uterus (if you have one). It can also potentially help increase sexual pleasure. However, there are many conditions where kegels make problems worse. If you have pain "down there" and are dealing with tight muscles in the pelvic floor, kegels will likely worsen your symptoms.

My issues with Kegels in a yoga class focused on pelvic floor exercises:

  • Those with tight muscles "down there" may find that kegels increase their pain and muscle tension.

  • A lot of people do kegels wrong, mistakenly pressing downward and increasing pressure.

  • Students may focus so much on squeezing that they hold their breath, which restricts the healthy movement of the pelvic floor.

  • Even those who benefit from kegels can do them too much, which causes fatigue.

Man who performed too many kegel exercises experiencing pelvic pain

What I cue as an exercise for the pelvic floor instead of kegels:

  • Oftentimes I cue nothing specific for the pelvic floor muscles, and instead focus on deep breathing and aligning the pelvis. You can easily stretch and strengthen in yoga without kegels! Deep breaths let the pelvic floor diaphragm move in its full range of motion, which is ideal. No cues are really needed beyond that.

  • For those who want more intensity in their pelvic floor workout, I cue to "lift the perineum." I may cue this for just two or three poses in a class, always making sure to remind students that they are not for everyone. Those with tight pelvic floors are asked to avoid it. This technique is only recommended for the last two breaths of a posture so the muscles are not overworked. (Important: If you do perineum lifts in a yoga class, it's really important to stretch the pelvic floor first!)

  • A perineum lift encourages people to raise the muscles upward, pulling from lower abdomen as if pulling the belly button up and in. Kegels, on the other hand, focus on squeezing. Both can be done wrong, so it's important to receive the right instruction.

  • Remember that perineum lifts are not good for everyone, and that students need to listen to their bodies. This can't be stressed enough! Kegels and perineum lifts are not for everyone! I also do not cue this option in more than two or three poses in a class. They are truly "extra," and not really needed in a class focused on the pelvic floor.

Always talk to your doctor or PT before attempting new exercises for the pelvic floor. The comments here are on my personal experience and are not professional medical advice.

If you're interested in taking yoga classes that focus on the pelvic floor, then you should explore

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