< Back to all posts
  • Understanding the Muscles of the Pelvic Floor

    We begin by visualising the boney landmarks to which the muscles attach.  These landmarks create a diamond shape.  At the top is the pubic bone (pubis symphysis) and at the base is the tail bone (coccyx).  Each side is located at each sit bone (ischial tuberosity). 

    Now divide the diamond into two triangles.  One triangle is at the front and one at the back. The front triangle I call the Anterior Pelvic Floor and the technical term on the image below is Urogenital Triangle.  The back triangle I call the Posterior Pelvic Floor and the technical term is Anal Triangle. 

    The muscle of the posterior pelvic floor is call Levator Ani.  Its fibers run front to back. If you tuck you tail under you are probably using this muscle. Its position is deeper in the body compared with the anterior pelvic floor. 

    The muscle of the anterior pelvic floor is called the Urogenital Diaphragm.  Its fibers run side to side.  If you draw up your vagina or scrotum you are probably using this muscle. 

    The diagram below looks at the pelvic from the front. Look at the difference in location between Levator ani and the Urogenital diaphragm. Whilst we call them anterior and posterior it is not a simple as that. This diagram helps us to visualise the respective locations within the body.  


    The anterior pelvic floor is responsible for supporting the pelvic organs and provides the base of the core support of the pelvis.   Its function prevents loss of bladder control or leaking. A very important role!

    Initially it is probably a subtle difference for most of us to sense our pelvic floor in two parts. Many pelvic floor exercises do not make this distinction and call us to draw up in front and back. The problem with this is that for many people we are already over active in the back and under active in the front.  So we may be exacerbating our imbalance. 

    Just like our mammal friends use their tails for balance (think of a cat walking on a fence), we need our tail free for us to balance well and move freely. The only time you see an animal with their tail tucked under is when they are scared. 


    Posterior Pelvic Floor 

    Try standing balanced evenly on two feet looking straight ahead.  Now gently tuck your tail under for a few seconds before slowly releasing back to normal.  You might like to do this slowly and mindfully a couple of times.  Track what happens in your body – your feet, your breath, your head.  What changes? For many of us when our tail is tucked our feet and legs become less apparent or less active in some way.  Or perhaps our breathing feels more restricted. 

    Practice for Tail Space 

    Now take a seat and sit towards the front of the seat.  Sit on the front of your sitbones (not on your tail), sit with weight in your thighs and in your ankle bones. Now imagine the space between the front of your tailbone and anus opening. You tail is like the tail of an Arabian horse, alert and free to move in the back space... 

    Now feel the space between your tail and your sit bones, can this space gently increase... 

    Now tune to the space between your tail and your pubic bone, can this space gently lengthen as you tail gets curious about the space behind you. 

    Take care, sometimes when we try to move our tail we tighten in our lower back.  Try to keep your lower back at rest.  This is a finally tuned practice.  Many of us have chronic tightness in our tail muscles, it takes time and space for them to lengthen.  Be gentle and curious rather than directive or forceful. After practicing for a few minutes stand up to notice any changes.  Taking a mindful walk can help these changes become apparent. 

    Anterior Pelvic Floor Practice 

    Take a seat again.  The first few moments are spent sensing bones and gravity.  Move around and reposition to find the right spot. Begin to imagine your vagina or scrotum lengthening or drawing up.  This is very gentle.  Your bones remain heavy.  The effort used is like blowing out a candle or leaving fog on a mirror.  The effort is not restrictive to breathing nor does it tension the tail. Try this practice for a few moments then take a walk and once again see how you feel. You might notice support and length in the front of the body, you might notice your toes more, perhaps more vitality and space is available. 

    The anterior pelvic floor is part of the core system.  This is the system of muscles, space and presence that gives us an 'antigravity' effect.  They hold us up.  When functioning optimally we feel effortless elongation.  The rest of the time they help us on the way to this elongation.  We use the word eccentric to describe their optimal function.  Eccentric means away from centre, where concentric means towards centre. 

    In a concentric muscle contraction the body shortens, in an eccentric muscle contraction the body lengthens. Lengthening is the optimal form of core contraction, an eccentric, expanding feeling that makes movement stable yet unrestricted. We want to have support in our body that allows us to have the potential for movement in all directions.  

    Releasing our tail into the backspace frees our tail to work as part of the spine (which it is) to provide our uprightness and our backing. It frees our legs to provide support and locomotion. Awakening our anterior pelvic floor is part of the stream of core muscles that hold us up and anticipate our movement.  Helping us to move with grace and ease.