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Posts Tagged ‘Pelvic Floor’

Maintain a Healthy Spine Through Yoga

Posted on June 17th, 2016 by Both comments and pings are currently closed.


By Paul Grilley

Some yoga instructors insist that students avoid curvature of the spine by insisting on tucking the pelvis. But any healthy movement can be overdone. Rather than insist on always having the pelvis tucked encourage your students to utilize the full range of pelvic motion in their practice.

Bad News Ballet?

The idea that a “tucked pelvis” is good for you comes from ballet. Ballerinas are taught to tuck their pelvis so they can spin on a straight axis. It is difficult to spin multiple times if the pelvis is not tucked. Ballerinas are also taught to tuck their pelvis so they can maximize the height and appearance of leg extensions. Many yoga instructors are former dancers and it is habitual for them to remind students to tuck their pelvis.

If ballet is bad for you, why imitate it?

Well, number one: ballet is not bad for you. Much of ballet training is about balance, stretching, and learning to isolate movements. This is good for you. Number two: tucking the pelvis is a natural movement you should learn how to do. It only becomes destructive if you remain stuck in that position.

Is an arched pelvis better than a tucked pelvis?

The last two covers of Yoga Journal magazine feature photos of young women in deep backbends. This is the opposite movement to a tucked pelvis. The poses look beautiful and one can’t help but admire the ease and range of motion of the models. But I doubt if anyone would think it healthy for someone to habitually hold their spine in this deep bend. If anyone attempted to do so, the discs in their back would degenerate painfully.

Then is a neutral position best?

Constantly arching the spine is unhealthy. Constantly tucking the spine is unhealthy. So should we live our lives in a timid neutrality of spine position, neither tucking nor tilting the pelvis? The answer is an emphatic “No!” The neutral spine position is how office workers live their lives, and statistics show that 80 percent of them will suffer serious back problems.

Inhale and exhale, tuck and arch, life is about movement.

To have a healthy spine, we must systematically move it through its full range of motion. This means sometimes we tuck the pelvis to flatten the spine, sometimes we tilt the pelvis to arch the spine, and sometimes we keep the spine neutral. This is the Taoist view of life, a constant alternation from one opposite to another. The contraction and expansion of the heart are opposites, but by alternating they are the Tao of circulation. The expansion and contraction of the lungs are opposites, but by alternating they are the Tao of breathing. Tucking and tilting the pelvis have opposite effects on the curve of the spine, but by alternating they are the Tao of posture.

Tuck it and arch it.

When practicing backbends such as the Cobra, don’t try to tuck the pelvis but let the spine arch. When practicing forward bends such as Paschimottanasana, don’t try to tilt the pelvis but let the spine round. These are normal movements for the lumbar spine, and to fight against them is to nullify the effects of the poses. Of course, overstretching an already injured spine could make it worse. But sooner or later, the goal of all physical rehabilitation is to regain the natural range of motion. Yoga practice helps us retain our full range of motion so we can easily alternate from a tucked pelvis with a straight spine to a tilted pelvis with an arched spine. Both these movements are necessary to maintain healthy posture.


To learn more about Paul Grilley, visit his website at and check out his DVD’s and online courses here at Pranamaya.

Paul Grilley:  A well-known master of yin yoga, Paul brings a thorough grounding in Hatha and Ashtanga yoga as well as anatomy and kinesiology to his teaching, which integrates the Taoist yoga of martial arts master Paulie Zink and the Chinese meridian and acupuncture theories of Dr. Hiroshi Motoyama. Paul’s book, Yin Yoga: Principles and Practice, explains how yin yoga can teach us to relax, be patient, be quiet, and focus on the skeleton and its joints—a necessary counterpoint to today’s more ubiquitous muscular yoga.



Elevating the Pelvic Floor

Posted on June 9th, 2016 by Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Leslie Howard


By Shalmali Pal

It’s a unique situation: A group of women, gathered together in a yoga studio, to discuss their pelvises. That’s what happens when yoga teacher Leslie Howard leads her workshop, “Demystifying Down There,” designed to shed light on the anatomy, physiology, and mechanics of the female pelvic floor. For many of the attendees, the workshop is a chance to talk freely about an issue that they feel is given short shrift by their healthcare providers.

“Women often tell me that they aren’t happy with the care they’ve received in terms of their pelvic floor health,” Leslie explained. “A lot of women have said that when they complain about incontinence, their doctors will tell them that incontinence is just a natural part of aging. They express a fair amount of frustration, either because they feel like there’s a lack of attention or a lack of information.”

Leslie was my primary yoga teacher for many years. I’ve attended her workshop more than once and I always come away with new insight into my body. Leslie describes the pelvic muscles as starting at the perineum and creating a “bowl” for the lower organs. She says to think of the torso as a tote bag with the pelvic floor serving as the bottom of the bag; if the bottom is too loose or too tight, the contents are more likely to come spilling or crashing out.

For many of the attendees, this simply analogy is a revelation. “Most of the women are not aware of their own anatomy,” she said. “Some women are so disembodied that when we do certain pelvic floor exercises, they tell me that they just don’t feel anything.”

I can understand their discombobulation; the female pelvic floor strikes me as pretty complex so any possible health problems are going to be equally complicated: There are several types of incontinence, overactive bladder, pelvic pain, vaginal pain, vulvar pain, sexual dysfunction (physical and psychological), pelvic prolapse, and vulvodynia, to name a few.

It’s a long list, which may explain, in part, why female sexual dysfunction never makes as big a splash as male sexual health issues. The market for erectile dysfunction drugs brings in well over $5 billion a year in sales, while treatment options for female sexual dysfunction — androgen therapy, estrogen therapy, non-hormonal therapies, counseling — seem difficult to distill into a single blue pill.

Even in this age of Googling health-related information online, workshop attendees complain that getting the goods on pelvic floor dysfunction is difficult. If they do find information, they can’t always make heads or tails of it, which is when they turn to their doctors for guidance.

It looks like the female pelvic floor is finally getting its due in the scientific community, and what’s particularly noteworthy is the breadth of research.
For instance, the meeting schedule for the International Pelvic Pain Society will hold its includes presentations on the basics of chronic pelvic pain, the psychological aspects of living with chronic pelvic pain, and functional brain imaging during pelvic floor physical therapy (PT).

Leslie is also helping to design the yoga component for a randomized clinical trial called LILLY (Lessening Incontinence by Learning Yoga). Currently in the recruitment phase and led by Alison Huang, MD, at the University of California San Francisco, LILY will assess the feasibility of a yoga therapy program to manage urinary incontinence.

I searched the web site using the term “pelvic pain and women” and came up with nearly 200 studies. Again, what struck me was the range of therapies under investigation: PT for vulvodynia; Botox for pelvic pain related to endometriosis; acupuncture for adenomyosis; and, of course, prescription drug treatments.

We keep hearing that under the the Affordable Care Act, more than 30 million U.S. residents will be eligible for insured healthcare  — how many of them will be women who are contending with pelvic dysfunction or pain?

Hopefully, the research that is getting off the ground now will yield results that translate to real-world practice. Then we can look forward to the day when a woman at Leslie’s workshop will say: “I had problem X with my pelvic floor and my physician really helped me figure it out.”

This article was originally posted on MedPage Today.


To learn more about Leslie Howard, visit her website at, and check out her online course here at Pranamaya.

LeslieHoward To understand why Leslie is so passionate about bringing attention to the hips and pelvic region through yoga, you must learn a little more about her. Leslie was diagnosed with hypertonic pelvic syndrome, a condition that is defined by muscle spasms in the pelvic region. It was through meticulous practice of Iyengar style yoga, characterized by great attention to detail and body alignment, that Leslie found relief. Because of this, she became determined to create her own form of yoga that specifically focuses on the hips and pelvic floor so as to help others aid and prevent such symptoms.


Yoga To Strengthen Pelvic Floor Could Help Women With Urinary Incontinence

Posted on November 24th, 2015 by Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Child's Pose

An old school yoga program, designed to improve pelvic health, could help women who suffer from urinary incontinence, according to a new study published in Female Pelvic Medicine & Reconstructive Surgery.

UC San Fransisco (UCSF) researchers discovered that the specifically designed yoga training program can help women gain more control over their urination and avoid accidental urine leakage.

“Yoga is often directed at mindful awareness, increasing relaxation, and relieving anxiety and stress,” said first author Alison Huang, MD, assistant professor in theUCSF School of Medicine.

“For these reasons, yoga has been directed at a variety of other conditions – metabolic syndrome or pain syndromes – but there’s also a reason to think that it could help for incontinence as well.”

Huang and her colleagues recruited 20 women from the Bay Area who were 40 years and older and who suffered from urinary incontinence on a daily basis.

Half were randomly assigned to take part in a six-week yoga therapy program and the other half were not.

The women who took part in the yoga program experienced an overall 70% improvement – or reduction – in the frequency of their urine leakage compared to the baseline.

The control group – or the group that did not start yoga therapy – only had 13% improvement.

Most of the observed improvement in incontinence was in stress incontinence, or urine leakage brought on by activities that increase abdominal pressure such as coughing, sneezing, and bending over.

Huang and her colleagues believe that yoga can improve urinary incontinence through more than one mechanism.

Because incontinence is associated with anxiety and depression, women suffering from incontinence may benefit from yoga’s emphasis on mindful meditation and relaxation.

But regular practice of yoga may also help women strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor that support the bladder and protect against incontinence.

“We thought this would be a good opportunity for women to use yoga to become more aware of and have more control over their pelvic floor muscles,” Huang said.

Approximately 25 million adults in America suffer from some form of urinary incontinence, according to the National Association for Continence. Up to 80% of them are women.

Urinary incontinence becomes more common as women age, although many younger women also suffer from it.

“We specifically developed a yoga therapy program that would be safe for older women, including women with minor mobility limitations,” Huang said.

“So we were partially assessing safety of this program for older women who are at highest risk for having incontinence in the first place.”

Not all types of yoga may help with urinary incontinence.

The yoga program used in the study was specially designed with input from yoga consultants Leslie Howard and Judith Hanson Lasater, who have experience teaching women to practice yoga in ways that will improve their pelvic health.

Still Huang and her colleagues believe that many women in the community can be taught to preserve pelvic muscle strength and prevent incontinence.

“It would be a way for women to gain more control over their pelvic floor muscles without having to go through traditional costly and time-intensive rehabilitation therapy,” Huang said.

Men were not included in this study because urinary incontinence in men is often related to problems related to the prostate, which may be less likely to improve with yoga.

Huang and her colleagues hope to eventually build on this study and double the length of the study to 12 weeks.

This article was originally posted on Huffington Post UK.

For more about Pelvic Floor Health listen to Leslie Howard’s podcast with Pranamaya Yoga Wisdom Click HereTo learn more about Leslie Howard, visit her website at, and check out her online course here at Pranamaya.




Podcast- Pelvic Floor Health and Yoga with Leslie Howard

Posted on November 14th, 2015 by Both comments and pings are currently closed.



Join Pranamaya Wisdom in a conversation about the pelvic floor with master yoga teacher Leslie Howard. Leslie is known as “The Pelvic Floor Lady”   here she discusses the importance of the Pelvic Floor keeping it healthy and what can be done to keep it tone through yoga. She also discusses popular misconceptions and the use of bandhas in yoga. Listen in and get valuable information on this rarely talked about topic that is so important for women’s health and wellness.

Here’s some wisdom from Leslie’s website about why  you should care about the Pelvic Floor.

A Healthy Pelvic Floor and Pelvic Floor Yoga®

Proper work of strengthening, stabilizing, stretching and softening the pelvic floor helps to create the correct foundation of each movement in the body. It is a basic tool to avoid loss of energy from this important area. A strong pelvic floor helps keep the pelvic and abdominal organs healthy as we age. But “strong” also means flexible. Think of your torso as “a tote bag” for your organs. The pelvic floor is the bottom of the tote bag. Someone with a weak pelvic floor (too loose or too tight) has a tote bag that is about to have the bottom fall out! Prolapsed organs, incontinence and pelvic pain are common to over fifty percent of women. Yet what is most prescribed as a catch all cure is “just do your Kegels.” A healthy pelvic floor is more than doing Kegels. A healthy pelvic floor is more than doing mula bandha. These practices are under taught, misunderstood and can sometimes lead to more problems.

The female pelvis and the pelvic muscles are an under appreciated region of the anatomy. Important not only for sexuality, the pelvic muscles are crucial for optimal functioning of the body. The pelvic muscles begin at perineum and are complex arrangement of muscles that create a “bowl” for the lower organs. Common problems that are related to the health of the pelvic floor are lumbar spinal problems, sacroiliac, hip or sciatic pain, bladder weakness, prolapse of the uterus or the bladder, and digestive, menstrual and sexual difficulties. This area can be too gripped, or too weak and sometimes both. Many women have a lack of tone due to age, lifestyle, bearing children or hereditary tendencies. What is less commonly known is that about 20-25 percent of all women have a chronic holding and tightening of the muscles of the pelvic floor. Sometimes an unhealthy holding pattern can start in early age or perhaps develop as a result of a fall, an accident or sexual abuse.

For online courses with Leslie visit 


Q&A: Leslie Howard On the Pelvic Floor and Yoga

Posted on October 2nd, 2011 by Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

Leslie Howard is a Bay Area-based yoga teacher who runs workshops nationally that teach women about the muscles and potential dysfunctions of the pelvic floor. She talked to The Sacred Cow this month about misconceptions and realities of the pelvic floor and whether or not modern yogis should be practicing mula bandha at all. Read More »»