I have been teaching prenatal yoga classes for a number of years now, and over this time have come to admire the almighty squat. Back in the day, we used to teach our mums that 100 pelvic floor lifts a day would help prepare them for the birth of their babies. Much has now been learnt about this topic.
A kegel, or pelvic floor lift, attempts to strengthen the pelvic floor muscle, but it really only seems to pull the sacrum inwards promoting even more weakness and more pelvic floor gripping. The muscles that balance out the anterior pull on the sacrum are called the gluteal muscles (glutes). A lack of glutes (no butt) is what makes this group of muscles so much more susceptible to pelvic floor disorder (PFD). Also, no lumbar curvature (curve at the small of the back) is the most telling sign that the pelvic floor is beginning to weaken.
By developing a regular deep squatting habit you will help create the posterior pull on the sacrum and balance the work of the pelvic floor. For women who have a tight pelvic floor, contracting this muscle regularly will simply aggravate the tension issue.
So how does squatting help?
Weekly deep squats can help improve pelvic placement for a healthier pelvic floor by lengthening the spine, strengthening the glutes, hips and legs and improving the biomechanical efficiency of the pelvis and legs. Not doing squats on the other hand, may contribute to weak, tight or incorrectly supported pelvic floor, hip and leg strength issues, functional mobility issues, balance disturbances, digestion dysfunction, as well as your intestinal wellness.
If our abdominal muscles are weak and our backs tight, this may well contribute to pulling the pelvis out of alignment. Add to this the limited range of motion that we’re working our hips in (eg, sitting in chairs and cars for extended amounts of time), and the low back muscles never fully release and our abdominals never experience full compression (like when knees are bent to chest).
A full standing squat, works the legs in a full range of motion, compresses the abdominals, and while this is happening, gravity is helping to stretch and lengthen the back muscles.
Ina May Gaskin says, “Squat 300 times a day, and you’re going to give birth quickly”
So when pregnant and preparing for birth, you want to be doing exercises that lengthen the pelvic floor. The squat is a basic human movement that we used to always do, and now no longer can do comfortably.
Squatting during labour.
Squatting is the physiological position for labour and birth. Your pelvis is at its most open, gravity is helping and contractions are at their strongest. Squatting is very useful at any stage of labour, particularly if you wish to speed things up. Squatting during contractions will intensify them. In-between, it will help to widen your pelvis and encourage your babies decent. Your pelvis will tilt forward, placing your baby in proper alignment for birth, while relieving back pressure, and helping to relax the pelvic floor.
How to squat properly
A good aligned squat will come down to the shin position. Using our shin position will take us from a front squat (using our quads) to a back position (using our glutes) The more vertical the shin and the more untucked the pelvis, the more glutes you’ll use.
The depth of the squat will be based on how well you can keep the shin and pelvis where you want them. The amount of time you spend in your squat will depend on how you feel when you get there. The glute action is primarily used on the way up, however a lingering squat, if you can relax, helps the muscles relax and allows you to drop a little deeper into the position.
So do you need to do 300 squats a day? I think that might me a little excessive, but by doing a few deep relaxed squats a day, you will reap the benefits during your pregnancy, your birth and for many years to come.
Have you squatted today?
Yoga For Two
Pregnancy Yoga – Brisbane – Ipswich