Part II: Breathing Techniques for Pelvic Floor Health

In Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy by Melissa PatrickLeave a Comment

By Melissa Patrick, PT, DPT and Jennifer Keesee, DPT

In part I of this blog post, we covered the basics of proper breathing mechanics and how important they can be for your pelvic health. We introduced pranayama, yoga based breathing exercises, and discussed the benefits of regular breath practice. We also talked about diaphragmatic breathing, its impact on the nervous system, and the fact that it is the foundation of other breath practices. If you are not familiar with diaphragmatic breathing, I encourage you to check out Part I first before proceeding with practicing the following techniques. 

 

Additionally, check out part I to see practice tips to set yourself up for success and learn more about how breathing exercises can help trauma survivors improve their coping mechanisms. 

 

See below for a variety of techniques that you can try right now by following along with the videos. Don’t forget: trust your breath, then pause after practice to observe and see if you can listen to what your body may be telling you. 

 

Breath Retention

  1. Inhale deeply, allowing the abdomen to fill, for a count of 3 or 4 (seconds).
  2. At the top of your inhale hold for a count of 5 or 6 (seconds).
  3. Release your breath slowly and completely, making your exhale last 7 or 8 seconds.
  4. Choose a pace that works for you and try not to worry about the number of seconds.
  5. Practice for 3-5 minutes.

breath retention

 

Lengthened Exhale

*(If breath retention is too challenging or makes you feel lightheaded, this may be a better option for you.)

  1. Inhale deeply, allowing the abdomen to fill, for a count of 3 or 4 seconds.
  2. Release your breath slowly and completely, making your exhale last 7 or 8 seconds. You can start with 4 seconds and gradually progress to 8 seconds. Try not to worry about the counting, just make sure your exhale is longer than your inhale. 
  3. Perform for 3-5 minutes. 

lions breath

 

Lion’s Breath (Simha Pranayama)

  1. Find a comfortable seated position in a space where you can feel comfortable making noise.
  2. Inhale through your nose.
  3. Open your mouth, stick out your tongue, extending it down toward your chin. Then forcefully exhale out your mouth, making a “ha” sound. 
  4. Relax your face between rounds and take a few normal breaths.
  5. Practice for 5 rounds.

lions breath

 

Bee Breath (Brahmari Pranayama) 

  1. Find a comfortable seated position in a place where you feel comfortable making noise. 
  2. Close your eyes or have the gaze downcast. You may want to close your ears, too to eliminate distraction and focus your attention on the sound of vibration. 
  3. Keeping your mouth closed, inhale fully through your nose.
  4. As you exhale, hum the sound of “M” in the back of your throat. Keep making this sound until you need to inhale again. 
  5. For shorter exhales, practice ten rounds. For longer exhales, practice five rounds. 

bee breath benefits

alternate nose breath

Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana Pranayama) 

*Tip: You may want to clear your nose with a tissue before beginning this practice. 

  1. Rest your left hand in your lap or on your knee, palm facing up.
  2. Place the index and middle fingers of your right hand in between your eyebrows. Rest your thumb on your right nostril and your ring finger on your left nostril.
  3. Inhale deeply and exhale fully through your nose.
  4. Close the right nostril with your thumb and inhale through your left nostril. Close the left nostril with your ring finger, open the right nostril (removing your thumb), and exhale through the right side.
  5. Pause briefly at the end of the exhale before inhaling through the right nostril. Close the right side with your thumb, open the left nostril (removing your ring finger), and exhale through the left side. You have now completed one full cycle.
  6.  Perform for 2-5 minutes. 

alt nostril breathing

 

Victory Breath (Ujjayi Pranayama)

 

  1. Take a comfortable seat. Practice constricting the back of your throat at your vocal cords, as if you were going to fog a mirror. Now, with a closed mouth, try to keep this constriction as you breathe.
  2. Inhale through your nose. Notice the slight rasping sound as your breath passes through your throat and fills your lungs, allowing your belly to rise.
  3. Keep this gentle constriction as you exhale, noticing the breath passing back through your throat and exiting your nostrils.
  4. Practice for 3-5 minutes 

victory breath

 

Be patient with yourself as you practice and get comfortable with these techniques. Choose the one(s) that feel the best for you and try to be consistent in your daily practice to get the most benefit. Discuss them with your physical therapist as part of your treatment plan, too. 

 

If you are interested in working one on one with Melissa Patrick, our physical therapist who offers virtual therapeutic yoga, please visit our website to learn more and sign up! She can assist you with practicing these techniques and help you to incorporate them into your existing stretching routine or yoga practice to optimize your pelvic health. 

 

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Are you unable to come see us in person in the Bay Area, Southern California or New England?  We offer virtual physical therapy appointments too!

 

Virtual sessions are available with PHRC pelvic floor physical therapists via our video platform, Zoom, or via phone. For more information and to schedule, please visit our digital healthcare page.

In addition to virtual consultation with our physical therapists, we also offer integrative health services with Jandra Mueller, DPT, MS. Jandra is a pelvic floor physical therapist who also has her Master’s degree in Integrative Health and Nutrition. She offers services such as hormone testing via the DUTCH test, comprehensive stool testing for gastrointestinal health concerns, and integrative health coaching and meal planning. For more information about her services and to schedule, please visit our Integrative Health website page

Melissa Patrick is a certified yoga instructor and meditation teacher and is also available virtually to help, for more information please visit our therapeutic yoga page

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