I wrote this article for a now dead website called “pilates union” and it needs to stay out there.
Ode to the Pelvic Floor
You know how there’s no one more evangelical than those who were saved by the thing they
initially resisted? That’s me with both the pelvic floor and Pilates. I had to live in a body that was
steadily devolving for some time before I listened to the myriad voices recommending Pilates to
me as a cure for my seventh whiplash incident.
I knew better after all, I was a jock. Then the doctor agreed with everybody and said “well, you
might as well try Pilates, pain management is a nine or ten month waiting list…” so I did it.
Thus it continued with teacher after teacher cueing this pelvic floor thing and me understanding it
so little that I didn’t even hear the words most of the time. What the heck is a pelvic floor and why
would I even care? My neck and hip and ankle were all basically better and I was doing pretty
advanced Pilates anyway so really, what pelvic floor? It’s probably some inconsequential little
muscle after all… what could the skin around my vagina matter anyway? (No, that is NOT what
the pelvic floor is!)
At the same time I was still having issues with continence (think three years since I started the
work) and sexuality in that I still couldn’t tell the difference between needing to pee and being
horny. In fact they felt identical; sometimes the only way to know involved trying to urinate,
obviously I lost mostly all interest in sex during this time! I could do pelvic peels on a ball but I
couldn’t fully hold my pee when I really needed to and coughing and sneezing on a semi full or full
bladder put me at risk of losing a few drops or more…
Somehow about this time I attracted many post pregnancy clients and I started to notice one
commonality repeated with all of them, even some that had given birth eight and fifteen years
earlier. Again and again they had headaches, they couldn’t control their bladders and their sex
drive had lessened or outright disappeared. They were me but their trauma had been at the
other end! Suddenly this whole “you’re disconnected through your pelvis” thing was starting to
make sense because I could see it on the women in front of me. Your pelvic floor holds up your
head! oh my goodness! Oh and your inner thighs support it?? And that leads to your feet???
Around this time I went in search of my sex drive. It didn’t make sense to me that someone as
passionate as I was about food and exercise and life and how blue the sky is today could care so
little about something so many people cared about so very much; truthfully I had never really
cared. In retrospect I wonder if this has to do with my first, second and third whiplash incidents
(car, car, learning to jump a dirtbike) occuring before I became sexually active.
So I started writing an erotic blog (but I prefer the word smut) to explore my desires and that led to
an offer to do toy reviews for a very large purveyor of adult toys, and then several months later I
met the man who taught me to pray. I didn’t notice our chemistry, but he did. He was that most
rare being, an utterly unselfish and generous lover who meant it when he said “I like it all, just tell
me what you like.” Never has a girl been more blessed in both timing and happenstance.
He finished the job for me. He put all the sex and breath and pelvic floor and movement etc work
that I had done together into one endless series of orgasms. He had so much fun making a
woman come that he liked to do it for hours. Seriously I had to quit more than once because my
ABDOMINAL muscles had given out; heck he even caused me to buck myself off the bed!
Truly I had believed that all of the things about women being multi orgasmic or screaming “oh
god” at the top of their lungs or whatever were so much hyperbole. That it was all a bunch of
hooey. [I’ve since met at least one verifiably multi orgasmic man as well, but in the long run it
removed his ability to go more than once a session so I think I’d split them up. Go twice or five
times in a day rather than 411 times at a shot and nothing for at least 12 hours] So, since I’m a
nerd, I got curious: How on earth was this all possible?
Well, first of all, you have to have a working pelvic floor.
So how does the pelvic floor work and what does it do? It supports our organs and keeps them
from falling out of our body and on to the floor. Don’t laugh, a “prolapsed rectum/uterus/bladder”
is often trying very hard to fall out of your body and on to the floor and I have it on very good
authority from a woman who had ALL THREE at once that is is DEEPLY and abidingly
uncomfortable and also don’t make her laugh, she doesn’t want to pee herself thank you. When
we came upright from quadriped our tails came under us to help hold us up and created our
pelvic floor and without it I’m not sure we could be bipedal.
But that’s not all the pelvic floor does because the body rarely uses anything for just one purpose;
so it also moves the way our diaphragm moves when we breathe. As you inhale your diaphragm
widens and opens downward and as you exhale it lifts and domes up under your lungs. If you’ve
ever seen a jellyfish swimming it’s just about the same thing and your pelvic floor does it along
with your diaphragm. Even our hips and spine get in the act because the top crest of the pelvis
narrows as we inhale (and thus the lower part widens allowing the release of the pelvic floor)
while the lumbar spine lengthens out it’s curve. So the iliac crest widens as we exhale (and the
ischiopubic ramuses aka bones between your pubic bone and your sitting bones come together)
and the lumbar spine returns to it’s deeper curvature. This creates an up and down movement in
your abdomen and an internal massage that nourishes your organs to keep them healthy.
And it feels really good if you do it well.
Then there’s the inner thighs whose connective tissue is contiguous with that of the pelvic floor.
Yup, it is. Your pelvic floor holds up your organs and thus your head but your inner thighs give it
the strength and your feet are the base. Without all of them it’s very difficult to live in an upright
and balanced body.
If you want to meet it, sit in a regular kitchen type chair with your feet flat on the floor. Imagine
you have to pee like you never have in your life (or lift and hold your pelvic floor) and then take
three deep breaths. Then, let go like you finally went to the bathroom and take three more
breaths. See how you couldn’t breathe when you were tight and locked but you could when you
let go? Say hello to your pelvic floor.
Okay but how does that apply to sex?
That’s easy with the female pelvic floor, the stronger and more elastic a lady is in her nether
regions the more likely her partner is to get quite a ride if he can cause her to orgasm. All of
those muscles around the vagina that people think of as the “try not to pee” muscles are also
deeply related to orgasm. For one thing when a woman orgasms her vagina does something
called the “uptick mechanism” which is designed to encourage sperm up the canal to somewhere
it can actually be useful. Your uterus and hopefully fertile and most available egg. [A propos of
nothing your vaginal mucous changes when you aren’t in the fertile part of your cycle and actually
blocks sperm rather than welcoming it in to the uterus. The secretions are very different
depending on where in her cycle a woman is so if she’s paying attention she’ll usually be able to
tell by her toilet paper in the morning. This is why it can be harder to get good and lubricated
sexually at some parts in your cycle than others and is part of why they make really good lube.]
Not every woman has these muscular contractions, not every woman has any reaction that’s the
same as every other one. We’re sort of like snowflakes we are.
Or, to put it another way, the vagina is this big squeezing tube like thingy that pulls stuff up and in
when a woman is stimulated to orgasm. So you have to imagine what that might feel like on a
man’s penis. Why yes, it DOES often drive the man to orgasm, that mother nature ain’t no
simpleton. One reason it’s a good idea for a man to get his lady good and primed before the main
event, her body will do far more interesting things to his while they’re connected at the root and
everybody will have more fun.
By extension then, if your pelvic floor moves in a rythmic jellyfish like wave with your breath and
your orgasm is a release and pulsating series of vaginal contractions, doesn’t it follow that you
can affect your sexual responses with your breath? Yes, yes it does. And that’s the beauty of it.
Women can affect their partner and do pelvic floor and breath work all at the same time if they
wish to. Simply inhale and allow the pelvic floor to release as your partner withdraws and exhale
and draw your partner in and up as they enter (you can also try the bottom to top internal
massage.) If you practice this long and slow it will become more automatic when things speed
up and the stronger you get the more your vaginal wall will slap and pulse and dance all by
herself. It somehow ends up this crazy muscular shimmy that is uncontrolled but affected by the
movements of the body and the breath. This may not sound all that fun to some ladies but the
more elastic and healthy your pelvic floor is the more fun it can have. By this I mean that I know
of more than one woman who claims to have orgasms that are an hour long. Now, I suspect from
my own experience that it’s more like a continuous series of peaks and valleys which eventually
subsides like an ebb tide. Yes, I’ve really ridden an orgasmic wave for an hour. No, really. And
this from the girl who used to think that sex thing was kinda messy and hey wasn’t Buffy on????
So what about men then? According to a yoga nerd friend of mine (the only one after months of
looking willing to take my search for some guy to talk to seriously) if he breathes deep and low
into his pelvic floor when he feels his orgasm build he can actually affect it’s release and not have
to recite baseball statistics in his head. Particularly if he forces himself to breathe when he most
wants to hold his breath and just come already. Apparently this allows him to stay in the moment
and connected with his partner in this most intimate of moments rather than trying desperately to
think of grocery lists or the like and breaking away in order to control his release and last longer.
Basically when you feel that low tightening in your belly and your balls, breathe it open and keep
on going. It works by the way, I taught that concept and a lot of breathwork, low belly and inner
thigh work to a man with erectile dysfunction and that, along with viagra to fight the veinous
leakage, allows him a tiny bit of control with his lady friend. [As he puts it: Viagara gives him a
pause, breath lets him extend it.] He doesn’t do his homework enough so the support chain isn’t
as strong as it could be but he is able to have satisfying sex in spite of having a mild heart
Wait, did I just say heart condition? Why yes, yes I did. That’s how he found out he had one,
because he went to the doctor about his not working so rightly penis. Guess what, the veins in the
penis are some of the most fragile in the human body and therefore erectile difficulties are often
the first sign of cardiac issues so GO TO THE DOCTOR instead of hiding!!!!
Breath is life and nourishment and pleasure and power and vibration and control and release all in
one glorious inspiration that moves you on a cellular level. So is orgasm, marry the two and life
gets to be just a little more fun. And why do you want to have more orgasms? Because two or
more orgasms a week lessens appetite, reduces depression, diminishes spasticity in spinal
patients whose sacral nerves are intact (even if they can’t feel it “there” they can feel it), improves
mood, brightens skin, diminishes stress, reduces incidence of breast cancer and prostate cancer
and endometriosis, decreases use of habitual mood enhancers ie alcohol et al, increases cardiac
health (not to mention all the calories you happen to burn) and increases life expectancy.
Angela Barsotti is a movement and Pilates teacher in downtown Toronto, Canada who remains
fascinated by sexual physiology, Pilates and anatomical movement. To see her talking about
“Sex, Breath and the pelvic floor” please feel free to visit her website
http://uglyducklingpilates.com and click “As seen on CP24” to see a clip from ‘Sex Matters’ with
the most excellent interviewer Cynthia LLoyst.