How to Relax Your Pelvic Floor

If anyone’s ever told you, “Just relax!” in response to stress, you know how, well, stressful those instructions can be. Indeed, figuring out how to “relax” when we are in a tense state can feel impossible, unless explicit instructions are given. Now, imagine you are told to relax muscles you didn’t even know existed. This is the reality for approximately 1 in 3 women in the US who will experience some form of pelvic floor dysfunction (PFD) in their lifetime. Tight, overly contracted pelvic floor muscles can lead to painful spasms. The solution — to relax those muscles —  sounds easy enough, but the practical steps are more elusive. So let’s break it down.

Note: In this article, we’ll be talking about how to relax your pelvic floor muscles. However, there are pelvic floor conditions, such as certain types of incontinence, that require strengthening of the pelvic floor. Ask your doctor what you should be focusing on for your health.

The first step in relaxing your pelvic floor is understanding what your pelvic floor is! So, before diving into these exercises, please take a moment to read our post on pelvic floor muscles and orient yourself with the diagram provided.

Ok, now that we’ve all gotten to know each other, let’s take a breath, literally.

Diaphragmatic breathing for pelvic floor relaxation:

As you breathe throughout the day, you are probably not aware of every single breath you take. That would be exhausting. Your chest simply rises and falls, rises and falls. But if you DO bring attention to your breath, you are able to consciously engage your diaphragm, the dome-like muscle that separates your abdomen from your chest.

In doing so, something magical happens. Not only does your heart rate slow down and you feel more relaxed, your pelvic muscles automatically relax on their own. See, as your diaphragm flattens with each conscious breath, it pushes down into your tummy and your pelvic muscles relax in response.

Find some time to do this every day: lie down somewhere comfortable and place your hand over your belly. Breathe in and feel your abdomen bulge out on each inhale and sink inward with each exhale. Start small, maybe with 10 deep belly breaths and slowly work up to more each day.

Stretching for pelvic floor relaxation:

Like all muscles in your body, your pelvic floor needs to be stretched! Certain positions can help alleviate tension in those crucial pelvic floor muscles and allow for more flexibility and less pain.

Wide legged child’s pose
Start on your hands and knees. Spread your knees wide while keeping your big toes together. Gently bring your head to the floor, moving your torso downward between your thighs. Your arms should be stretched out long and in front of you. Stay in this position and breathe, feeling your pelvic girdle widen and relax.

Happy baby
Lie on your back. Exhale and bend your knees into your belly. Inhale and grip the outsides of your feet with your hands. Open your knees a little wider than your torso and pull legs slightly towards your armpits. Again, feel your pelvic girdle opening and relaxing and you gently rock from side to side.

Adductor stretching
Lie on your back. Let your knees fall to the sides and have the soles of your feet touching. Push gently down on your knees for more resistance. If this causes any pain, you can place a pillow under your knees for support. Breathe and let your knees sink deeper towards the floor.

Dilator Therapy

Finally, if you have been diagnosed with vaginismus, dilator therapy is another option for relieving painful symptoms. Just like a massage to your neck, applying gentle pressure to your vaginal wall can help relax overly contracted pelvic floor muscles. Vaginal dilators, like Milli, are gently inserted into your vagina to help alleviate painful spasms.

Dilators increase in size to fit your body’s needs and can include vibration to further relax your pelvic floor area. Lubrication is encouraged to facilitate passage of the dilator into the vaginal wall. Dilators can be used on your own, as foreplay or moments before intercourse. The goal is to figure out what is most comfortable for YOU.

Grace Klaris

Grace Klaris

Three Words to Describe Grace: Hungry, quick, thoughtful

Expertise: qualitative research, global health, and where to get the best bite

Education: BA in Human Biology from Stanford University

Grace is a science writer for Materna Medical. She is a fourth-year medical student at the Warren Alpert Medical School (AMS) at Brown University and currently on a gap year to learn how to farm and pursue her interest in writing.

Grace earned her bachelor’s degree in Human Biology at Stanford University, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa. Before medical school, Grace was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study maternal health in Lucknow, India. She then returned to her hometown of New York City and spent two years working as the personal assistant to Dan Barber, chef and co-owner of Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns. Outside of the hospital, Grace is a passionate writer. She is a co-editor and contributor to AMS’s student literary magazine, Plexus, and an unofficial disciple of Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones. For Materna Medical, Grace specializes in writing articles that translate complex medical conditions into useful resources for patients. Next year, she plans to apply into general surgery with the goal of becoming a pediatric surgeon.

This has been reviewed by Edward Evanstash, M.D., OB-GYN and Chief Medical Advisor for Materna Medical, and Kathy Cassidy, Director of Education for Materna Medical and a Certified Nurse Midwife and a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner.