The Pelvic Floor Moves Up and the Gluteus Maximus Moves Down
Form follows function in my view of the world and body. The human body functions quite specifically and if we learn about how it works we can then build a body that addresses this function while creating a lovely form as well. All too many people look only at form when addressing concerns for their own body. More power to everyone and the decisions they make but I have personally seen the success people have had getting out of pain simply by learning how the body is designed to function putting that new information into play in a healing manner.
The muscles of the pelvic floor and the big buttock muscle gluteus maximus are meant to work and move in opposite directions. The levator ani muscle of the pelvic floor tones upwards. This upward tone of the pelvic floor is what we are developing while doing pelvic lifts or kegel exercises, or in yoga engaging the energetic lock known as mula bandha. The gluteus maximus is an extensor muscle running down the leg from the top of the pelvis. We use the gluteus maximus to extend the leg backwards and it really goes to work when we are walking up hill or up steps.
These two muscles should work together beautifully when doing squats. The pelvis floor provides support and upward lift to the descending pelvis and spine while the gluteus maximus provides strength and thrust to the ascending legs when going up and down. But very often too much tone in the gluteus maximus overrides the lack of tone in the levator ani.
We are a tight assed people almost always gripping our butt muscles even when they are not called upon to function. Many people find it almost impossible to shut the butt off when trying to do pelvic floor work. It can be hard stop it from engaging when doing even the gentlest kegel exercise. These two muscles have to be separated in the brain and nervous system if we are to develop true core tone.
One trick to shutting off the butt in order to feel the pelvic floor is to sit on a yoga block or any hard surface or bench. The hard surface will most likely shut off the gluteus maximus and free you up to feel if you can isolate and engage the pelvic floor. This kind of work on a hard surface is what makes the New York City trains ideal for working your pelvic floor.
Coming upright on two legs changed both the gluteus maximus and the levator ani considerably. The gluteus maximus was essential in our evolution to standing beings. It is the muscle that brought us upright and doesn’t really exist in other mammals- the pelvic muscles of most quadrupeds are much weaker than ours. The levator ani also has a very different existence in a standing animal. Our pelvic floor is actually the back wall of a quadruped. In a standing animal the levator ani takes on the additional role of helping to stabilize the pelvis to support the spine and it has to help bear the weight of the organs that live above it.
We must get to know these muscles both physically and intellectually. If you know what your gluteus maximus is supposed to do maybe you wouldn’t grip it so much and if you understood the importance of the levator ani to urogenital function and ageing you would start to build some much-needed tone.