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Bowel movements are directly impacted by pelvic floor muscle length and function. Besides good water intake and dietary habits to ensure good stool consistency, there are additional strategies in your control.
Relax the pelvic floor muscles
Use the breath to help you relax the pelvic floor muscles.
We want to ensure that the external anal sphincter, located in the outermost layer of the pelvic floor muscles, is able to relax as you prepare to evacuate. As you inhale, imagine your pelvic floor muscles relaxing towards the toilet. Lack of coordination and strength of the pelvic floor muscles can contribute to constipation.
Elevate your feet on a Squatty Potty, stool or yoga blocks to bring your knees higher than your hips.
The pelvic floor muscles can be broken down into three layers. The outermost layer and middle layer aid in closing the tubes at the end of the urinary, gastrointestinal, and reproductive systems. The innermost layer supports the organs and is important for core stability.
One muscle of particular interest in regards to bowel health is the puborectalis. Puborectalis is a subdivison of the group of muscles in the innermost layer called the levator ani. When your knees are higher than your hips, your puborectalis muscle elongates, increasing the anorectal angle, and creating an easier evacuation.
Prime the pump
You might try contracting then relaxing the pelvic floor muscles a few times when you are sitting on the toilet. This is a way to bring awareness to the muscles to see if they are, in fact, relaxed. If not, this is a way to get you back to baseline before you elongate.
You can also imagine that by contracting and relaxing you are “priming the pump” to get your digestive engine fired up.
For optimal success, coordinate your exhalation with a pelvic floor muscle contraction, pulling up and in. Inhale, fully releasing the muscles down toward the toilet bowl.
Massage your abdomen
Massaging your abdomen can stimulate peristalsis, the muscular contractions of the digestive system that move the food through your system. Start in the lower right aspect of your belly, then continue massaging up to right ribs, across above belly button, down to the bottom left aspect of the belly. Massaging down the left side of the abdomen while side-bending towards the right might also stimulate the urge.
Use a Wonder Woman power pose
Some people might be in the habit of grunting until they are red in the face to pass a bowel movement. This increase in intra-abdominal pressure can push down on the pelvic organs. This is something you want to avoid, especially if you already have a pelvic organ prolapse.
An alternative is to create a wide waist. While you are sitting on the toilet, place your hands on your waist above your hips like a Wonder Woman power pose and press your abdomen into your hands. This elongates the pelvic floor muscles without increasing the risk of organ descent.
Some women may want to place their fingers at the vaginal opening for support during bowel movements if they experience a falling down of the bladder, uterus, or vagina.
My colleague Shelly Prosko created a toilet meditation to encourage mindfulness and presence while using the bathroom. Please enjoy and check out her other work, which includes some beautiful yoga videos!