Updated: Jan 14
This 5-post series is dedicated to my friend K.T., the beautiful and talented mother of Lauren, Danny and Elizabeth; a Grandma-in-High-Demand.
The crowning glory of Motherhood is Grandmotherhood. GRAND BABIES!!! Women sound like teenagers with crushes or little kids in a roomful of puppies. Next thing you know, you're taking care of your progeny's progeny so they can go to their jobs. Grandmoms jump right into the role they played 3 decades ago - lifting those little chubbers in and out of the tub or car seat, lugging a stroller through soft sand, hugging, hauling and hoisting those bundles of joy..... Only now we're in in our fifties and sixties. The body isn't quite as strong and supple as it used to be..... We may even have injured our shoulders, knees or backs somewhere over the years.
That's the reason all Grannies - and Grandpas - need to practice core strength exercises. Everyday. No, not sit ups or side-plank. I'm talking pelvic floor stabilizers. Remember Kegels?
We lay a strong foundation to insure that what we build is structurally sound and remains supported through the years that our "building" is in use. That is why yoga views pelvic floor strength and stability as the essential foundational practice.
There are plenty of exercise in the yoga tradition for laying this all-important foundation. Let's keep it simple for starters and elaborate later.
This is not at all visually exciting. No-one would associate Kegels (aka root lock or mula bandha) with the graceful asanas (postures) the splendid models perform. But I'll bet you those beautiful bodies have spent plenty of time with these unglamorous practices that stabilize and strengthen the pelvic floor.
If the container is weak, our strength will leak. With a stable foundation, we are like a mountain. We can live and love just as our hearts desire. Let's get started!
Begin in Crocodile pose. Rest on the floor on your belly with your elbows under the shoulders and the forearms resting on top of each other. Feel the length of the front of your body as you gently press into the elbows and forearms; lengthen your neck as you walk the elbows out and bring the forehead to rest on the arms.
Release the weight of your body. Separate the feet slightly. Rest.
Notice your belly on the firm ground. As you inhale, the tummy presses into the floor. When you exhale, the low back sinks a little and the ribs draw towards each other. Imagine the inhalation begins lower in your belly, rising up to your chest. Exhale and let the breath go. See how your breathing gradually deepens.
Let the breath move deeply and nourish you here: deep in the belly. We want breath in this area, to nurture strength and to heal pain. Each time you breathe out, let go.
After awhile, roll over onto your back. Hug the knees in and gently rock from side to side.
Place your feet back down on the floor, wider apart than your hips. As you exhale, drop both knees to the right, keeping the feet wide. Inhale knees up; exhale, drop your knees to the other side. Take your time so that you're moving exactly with the breath. Inhale up, exhale down. Nice and easy.
Come to center and allow your knees to rest together. Relax your arms in any comfortable position. Next time you exhale, engage the muscles of the pelvic floor (like you're stopping the flow of urine while peeing). Then release as you inhale. Do that three or four more times: engage the pelvic floor muscles as you breathe out, relax them as you breathe in. You're not squeezing the buttocks, tummy or thighs. Yoga calls this practice mula bandha - the root lock. MDs call it a Kegel. Well done!!!
Bring the knees up to your chest and take a few nice deep breaths.
Okay - time for step two. Release your feet to the floor and extend your legs. This time as you exhale, roll your buttocks in toward each other, draw the rectum up and in and squeeze closed the anal sphincter. Inhale and release. Take your time. At first, maybe just squeeze your buns together and gradually finesse the isolation of the different muscles. This may not be your idea of yoga, but this is a foundational practice! It's even got a yoga name: ashwini mudra, the horse lock. Think of your gluteus muscles rolling inward and squeezing together. Imagine the inner tube of the rectum withdrawing. Then tighten the anus. (Remember what you do in order not to pass gas on an elevator you're sharing with another person.) That's ashwini mudra. Bravo!!!
When you combine the root lock with the horse lock, you are creating a strong and stable foundation for yourself. For you body, your subtle energy and for your mind. In my next post, we'll add two more pelvic muscle group engagements and practice joining all four together to create a strong, healthy, stable foundation of the whole of your being. There is tremendous power in the area of the pelvis and these practices awaken and direct that energy for your structural integrity and for your well-being and transformation.