The levator ani, the muscle of the pelvic floor and the diaphragm, the main muscle of breathing are synergists. They are designed to work together, doing the same thing at the same time. When you inhale, the diaphragm should drop increasing the space in the lungs and the pelvic floor drops as well.
This dropping of the diaphragm moves the abdominal organs forward and the belly pushes out a bit. Many of us do the opposite when breathing. The diaphragm often gets stuck when we inhale, forcing the chest to expand to allow for the increased lung capacity. In doing so, we don’t allow ourselves full, complete inhales. In the natural inhaling process, the belly pushes out a bit as the diaphragm drops down. Place your hands on your belly and spend a few moments trying to find natural breathing – belly out on the inhale. This requires bringing the base of the rib cage level with the ground.
Now try and feel the pelvic floor on the inhale. Bring the top of the pelvis level to the ground (easier said than done). When the pelvis is aligned this way you should have the clearest or easiest access to the pelvic floor. Hopefully you feel that the pelvic floor lowers on the inhale in the same way as the diaphragm.
This means that the belly comes in on the exhale as the diaphragm rises and the pelvic floor lifts as well. Try doing a kegel (gentle squeezing and lifting the pelvic floor muscles as if you were stopping your urine flow) during an exhalation. It’s pretty natural. Now try to squeeze and lift that area when you inhale. It’s tough. Because your pelvic floor is moving with the diaphragm when you inhale; they are both dropping down. And when you exhale, they both rise.
The diaphragm and the pelvic floor, one of the more important relationships within the body, cannot work together if they are not level with each other and the earth. When standing most of us lean backwards and tuck our pelvis under— and the muscles of the back tend to be much shorter than the abdominal muscles at the front of the body which are often overstretched. This throws of the balance of the rib cage and pelvis.
Building the correct muscle tone in order to bring the pelvic floor and diaphragm into accord is a challenge of a lifetime. Start by trying to stand or lay down and align the body in such a way that you can:
- Feel the diaphragm and pelvic floor moving in the same way at the same time.
- Find the position of both the rib cage and the pelvis that seems to allow the best access to their working together.
Feeling these things can be very subtle so take your time if this is new to you. But time invested is usually rewarded. As you get to know yourself inside and out you might discover a greater capacity for healing.