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  • Writer's pictureKiki Maree

P is for Pelvic Diaphragm

Updated: Apr 12

The pelvic diaphragm is a term used to describe the muscular and fascial components that span the base of the pelvic cavity. It is a dome-shaped structure primarily composed of the levator ani and coccygeus muscles, as well as their associated fascia. The terms "pelvic diaphragm" and "pelvic floor" are often used interchangeably, but there are arguments in favor of using "pelvic diaphragm" for precision and clarity. Here's why:


  1. Three-dimensional Perspective: The term "diaphragm" captures the three-dimensional nature of this structure. Describing it as a "floor" might lead one to think of it as a flat and hard structure, which is not the case. The pelvic diaphragm has depth, flexible, and it's shaped more like a basin or bowl, or even a hammock, rather than a flat floor.

  2. Functional Analogies: The term "diaphragm" offers a functional analogy to the thoracic diaphragm, the primary muscle responsible for breathing. Both the thoracic diaphragm and the pelvic diaphragm work dynamically, moving in coordination during breathing and other bodily functions. When we inhale, the thoracic diaphragm descends, and the pelvic diaphragm has a coordinated movement. Understanding this coordination is essential for certain therapeutic approaches.

  3. Better Therapeutic Understanding: For individuals undergoing physical therapy, particularly pelvic diaphragm therapy, conceptualizing the pelvic muscles as a dynamic diaphragm can be beneficial. It reinforces the idea that these muscles can move, stretch, contract, and relax just like other muscles in the body. This can be especially vital for individuals with pelvic tension or dysfunction.

  4. Reinforcing the Holistic Approach: Emphasizing the term "pelvic diaphragm" can help in recognizing the interconnectedness of the body's systems. For instance, issues with the pelvic diaphragm might impact respiratory function, sexual health, urinary function, and more.

  5. Dissociation from Gendered Connotations: The term "pelvic floor" is often (though not always correctly) associated primarily with female anatomy and health issues. Using "pelvic diaphragm" can emphasize that this muscular structure is present and essential in all genders, reinforcing the importance of understanding and addressing pelvic health in everyone.


Kegel exercises are well-known for strengthening the pelvic diaphragm muscles, which support the uterus, bladder, small intestine, and rectum. However, focusing solely on tightening these muscles without also practicing relaxation can lead to a range of issues. It’s crucial to understand the importance of maintaining a balance between strengthening and relaxing the pelvic diaphragm to ensure it remains healthy and functional.


1. Understanding the Pelvic Diaphragm

The pelvic diaphragm is a group of muscles that form the pelvic diaphragm. Like any other muscle group in the body, the pelvic diaphragm muscles require a full range of motion to function optimally. This includes the ability not only to contract but also to relax and stretch.


2. Risks of Over-Tightening

Constantly tightening the pelvic diaphragm muscles through repetitive Kegel exercises without adequate relaxation can lead to hypertonicity, where the muscles become too tight. A hypertonic pelvic diaphragm can cause several issues, including chronic pelvic pain, difficulties in urination or bowel movements, and pain during intercourse. Overly tight muscles can also become weak and ineffective over time, similar to how overworked arm or leg muscles might fatigue and fail to perform when needed.


3. Importance of Muscle Balance

Muscle balance is vital for the pelvic diaphragm. Just as you wouldn’t continuously flex your bicep without ever stretching or relaxing it, the same principle applies to the pelvic diaphragm muscles. They need to be able to contract to maintain continence but also relax to allow for urination, bowel movements, and sexual intercourse. This balance helps in preventing pelvic diaphragm disorders.


4. Incorporating Slow and Fast Twitch Muscle Fibers

The pelvic diaphragm contains both slow-twitch and fast-twitch muscle fibers. Slow-twitch fibers are crucial for endurance and maintaining muscle tone over long periods, such as supporting the pelvic organs all day. Fast-twitch fibers are used for quick contractions, like preventing urine leakage when sneezing. Effective pelvic diaphragm training should engage and strengthen both types of fibers through varied exercises that include both rapid contractions and sustained holds, as well as relaxation and stretching phases.


5. Practicing Full Range of Muscle Function

Engaging the full range of muscle function involves training the muscles to contract, hold, and then fully relax. This comprehensive approach ensures the muscles are flexible and strong, not just tight. It also improves blood circulation in the area, which aids in muscle recovery and health.


6. Integrating Relaxation Techniques

In addition to performing Kegel exercises, it is beneficial to integrate relaxation techniques such as pelvic diaphragm stretches, yoga, or pilates that focus on relaxing the pelvic diaphragm muscles. These practices help in achieving a balanced approach to pelvic health.


Support for a hypertonic pelvic diaphragm.


Massage

External and internal massage are great ways to help release the pelvic diaphragm. I highly recommend to see a pelvic floor physiotherapist for diagnosis, and then to work closely with a certified yoni massage practitioner and/or a pelvic floor physiotherapist.


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Stretching

*do so in accordance with your body's capacities and needs,


Deep Squat

This exercise can help stretch and relax the pelvic diaphragm muscles by utilizing the natural weight and pull of your body.


Starting Position:

  • Stand with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Ensure your toes are pointing outwards, roughly at a 45-degree angle.

  • Keep your chest lifted, shoulders relaxed, and spine in a neutral position.

Execution:

  • As you inhale, slowly lower your body down into a squat, aiming to get your buttocks as close to the ground as possible.

  • Keep your feet flat on the ground. If you're struggling to do this, you can roll up a towel or yoga mat and place it under your heels for support.

  • Allow your arms to come in between your legs, with your elbows inside of your knees. Your hands can be in a prayer position at the center of your chest or resting on the ground in front of you.

  • As you hold the deep squat, breathe deeply and try to relax the pelvic diaphragm muscles further with every exhale.

  • Place your hand on your yoni and see if you can feel movement with your breath, if not, be sure to do this practice as much as you can along with other practices to help support more pelvic diaphragm movement

  • Hold the position for as long as comfortable, aiming for 30 seconds to a minute, and then use your leg muscles to stand up again.


Note: This position might be challenging for some, especially if there are existing hip or knee issues. Make sure you listen to your body, and don’t push into any painful range.


Pelvic tilts

Pelvic tilts are an excellent exercise to increase awareness of the pelvic diaphragm and surrounding musculature. For individuals with a hypertonic pelvic diaphragm, where the muscles are overly tight, pelvic tilts can help facilitate relaxation, improve mobility, and enhance proprioception (the sense of the relative position of body parts and strength of effort being employed in movement).


Here’s how to do pelvic tilts specifically with a focus on relaxing a hypertonic pelvic diaphragm:


1. Starting Position:

  • Lie on your back on a comfortable surface, like a yoga mat or carpeted floor.

  • Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the ground, hip-width apart. Your arms should be by your side, palms facing down.

  • Begin with a neutral spine, meaning there should be a small, natural arch in your lower back, and it might not be touching the floor.

2. Execution:

  • Anterior Tilt (Arching the Back): As you inhale, arch your lower back by pushing your belly button towards the ceiling and allowing your tailbone to tilt down towards the floor. You should feel a slight lifting of your back off the ground, primarily focusing on the lumbar region.

  • Posterior Tilt (Flattening the Back): As you exhale, gently tighten your lower abdominals and push your lower back into the floor. Think about tilting your pelvis so that your tailbone lifts slightly off the ground. As you do this, you should feel a gentle engagement of your core muscles but also focus on relaxing the pelvic diaphragm. Imagine the pelvic diaphragm muscles lengthening and softening.

3. Progression and Awareness:

  • Move slowly between the anterior and posterior tilts, making the movement smooth and controlled. The emphasis for hypertonic pelvic diaphragm issues should be on the relaxation phase (during the posterior tilt) and ensuring the pelvic diaphragm is softening and not clenching.

  • As you get more comfortable, try to increase the depth and range of each tilt, but always maintain control and avoid any pain.

  • As you practice this movement, become mindful of any tension in the pelvic diaphragm. Your goal is to facilitate relaxation of these muscles, so visualize them releasing and lengthening with each repetition.

4. Frequency:

  • Aim for 10-15 repetitions at a time, making sure to keep the movement controlled and focusing on the relaxation of the pelvic diaphragm.

Pelvic tilts not only offer benefits for the pelvic diaphragm but also help in improving the mobility of the lumbar spine and coordination between the core and pelvic muscles. If you're dealing with a hypertonic pelvic diaphragm, it's essential to work closely with a pelvic diaphragm physiotherapist or another specialized professional such a s yoni massage therapist to ensure you're doing exercises correctly and addressing the root of the issue.


Potential Concerns for Pelvic Tilts:

  1. Incorrect Technique: If performed incorrectly, pelvic tilts could exacerbate tension. For example, if someone is forcefully tucking their pelvis under (posterior tilt) and squeezing their gluteal muscles too hard, they might inadvertently be adding tension to the pelvic floor.

  2. Overemphasis on Strengthening: The focus of pelvic tilts for someone with a hypertonic pelvic diaphragm should be on relaxation and mobility, not strengthening. If someone approaches the exercise with the mindset of a traditional workout (thinking "more is better"), they might overdo it and increase tension.

  3. Lack of Guidance: Without proper guidance, individuals might not be aware of the subtle cues and sensations that indicate relaxation or tension in the pelvic diaphragm. They might miss the benefits of the exercise or, worse, perform it in a way that exacerbates their symptoms.


Happy Baby Pose

Happy Baby Pose offers various benefits, one of which includes its influence on the pelvic diaphragm.


Anatomy of the Pose in Relation to the Pelvic Diaphragm:

When performing the Happy Baby Pose, the legs' positioning (wide apart and drawn towards the armpits) promotes a stretching or broadening of the pelvic diaphragm, primarily affecting the levator ani group of muscles. This stretch can be especially beneficial for individuals who carry tension or have tightness in the pelvic region.


Impact and Benefits on the Pelvic Diaphragm:

  1. Stretching & Relaxation: The pose gently stretches the muscles of the pelvic diaphragm. This can help in releasing tension and facilitating relaxation, especially in individuals with a hypertonic (overly tense) pelvic diaphragm.

  2. Increased Awareness: The grounded nature of this pose allows individuals to focus on the sensation in their pelvic area, enhancing their proprioceptive awareness of the pelvic diaphragm. Over time, this increased awareness can lead to better control and coordination of these muscles in daily activities.

  3. Promotion of Circulation: Stretching and relaxation of the muscles can aid in increased blood flow to the pelvic region. This can be beneficial for healing, recovery, and general well-being.

  4. Facilitation of Diaphragmatic Breathing: While in the Happy Baby Pose, the positioning allows for easier diaphragmatic (deep) breathing. This type of breathing further promotes relaxation of the pelvic diaphragm. As the diaphragm descends during inhalation, there's a corresponding relaxation response in the pelvic diaphragm.


Tips for Maximizing Benefits on the Pelvic Diaphragm:

  1. Mindful Breathing: Breathe deeply and mindfully, focusing on the rise and fall of the abdomen. This deep diaphragmatic breathing can encourage the pelvic diaphragm to move in coordination.

  2. Engage in Progressive Relaxation: As you hold the pose, try to progressively relax the pelvic muscles with each exhale. Visualize the pelvic diaphragm gently stretching and releasing tension.

  3. Gentle Movement: Add a slight rocking side to side, which can provide a gentle massage to the lower back and further encourage relaxation of the pelvic region.

  4. Duration: Hold the pose for a duration that feels comfortable. Over time, as flexibility increases, you may find you can hold the pose longer, amplifying its benefits.


Remember, while the Happy Baby Pose can be beneficial for the pelvic diaphragm, it's always essential to listen to one's body. If there's any discomfort, it's crucial to come out of the pose and, if necessary, consult with a yoga instructor or physical therapist knowledgeable about pelvic health.


Yoni Egg Usage for Hypo & Hypertonic Pelvic Diaphragms

Hypotonic pelvic floor describes muscles that are weak and lack sufficient tone or strength, while a hypertonic pelvic floor refers to muscles that are overly tight and cannot relax

Yoni eggs can be super beneficial for hypotonic pelvic floors, however it is important to do so (and any form of kegels) in a holistic way.


Using yoni eggs and/or doing kegels when experiencing a hypertonic pelvic diaphragm on the other hand is not necessarily recommended, though if you do wish to, there are some very important things to be aware of before attempting to do so.


Potential Concerns with Using a Yoni Egg for Hypertonic Pelvic Diaphragms:

  1. Counterproductive to Relaxation: Inserting an object into the vagina when the muscles are already tense might lead to more tension or spasm, making the condition worse. The body might perceive the egg as a foreign object and tighten the muscles in response.

  2. Risk of Overexertion: Some proponents of yoni eggs promote exercises that involve squeezing or contracting the pelvic muscles around the egg. For someone with a hypertonic pelvic diaphragm, this could lead to overexertion and exacerbate symptoms.

  3. Potential for Incorrect Use: Without proper guidance and awareness, there's potential for incorrect use, which could lead to discomfort or worsening of symptoms.


Potential Benefits:

  1. Biofeedback Tool: For some, the presence of the yoni egg could serve as a biofeedback tool, helping them become more aware of their pelvic muscles and the tension they're holding. This awareness could then be used to work on relaxation techniques.

  2. Mindfulness and Connection: Some individuals find that using the yoni egg helps them connect more deeply with their bodies, fostering a sense of mindfulness that could indirectly aid in relaxation.

  3. General Well-being: Some people believe in the metaphysical properties of the stones used for yoni eggs and feel that using them promotes emotional and spiritual well-being.


To go deeper into all things pelvic health, I have created a Pelvic Blossoming Course with Sara Silverstein which is in our Eros Unleashed Bundle that has ALL OF OUR PAST COURSES, as well as any future course I create. You can use the discount code BLOSSOM for 15% off.





May the pleasure be with you alllll Kiki xx

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