What are Kegel exercises? How do I do them?

They are simple ways to strengthen the muscles of your pelvic floor. Strengthening those muscles helps prevent or reduce incontinence and enhances your response during lovemaking. 

The pelvic floor is like a sling that runs from our pubic bone in front to our tailbone in back and to our hip bones on either side. (Or, as one doctor put it: once, it was like a trampoline; now, it’s like a hammock.) It performs a fancy figure eight around the vagina, urethra, and anus, controlling, supporting, and maintaining good function in those unsung and important areas.

But it’s also a deep muscle that works in tandem with other muscles in the back and abdomen. And all these muscles have to be balanced and working harmoniously for us to be pain-free and without uncomfortable symptoms, such as that bulge that signals a uterine prolapse or that tendency to “laugh and leak.”

This is because the pelvic floor is subjected to unique demands compared to other body parts. It literally holds our organs in place, so pressure from childbirth, obesity, trauma, heavy lifting, even hard coughing, and, of course, simply getting older, can weaken the muscle and cause things to sag over time.

Further, as we lose estrogen during menopause, this muscle tends to lose tone, and that affects the quality of orgasm.

Kegels can help prevent the "laugh and leak" problem.

Kegels are easy, once you identify the right muscles to flex.

Find a place to sit quietly, feet on the floor, straight out from your hips, hands just folded quietly in your lap, eyes closed, breathing softly, with the space and time to give this practice a little focus. 

Now, as if you were stopping the flow of urine mid-stream, tighten the muscles around your vagina. That’s all, just as if you were stopping the flow. And there they are! Those are the primary muscles we will be working.

Let’s take it another step. Working just a little harder, imagine that you are sucking a heavy, marble ball into your vagina. As you develop your sense of your inner landscape, try tightening your inner pelvic muscles to draw your pubic bones and tailbone together or imagine trying to draw your “sit bones” toward one another.

When you are doing your Kegels, don’t tighten your buttocks or your inner thigh muscles. Let those stay relaxed. Don’t hold your breath or suck in your gut. Keep everything soft except that sling under your organs. Focus and breathe. This thing that takes some concentration at first will become so natural with practice you’ll be able to do it while waiting in line at the grocery store! 

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