Welcome to Week #1 of the Healthy Habit Challenge! Each week I’m picking a common movement habit that’s not helping your health. Then I’m challenging you (and me!) to spend the week focusing on 1) noticing when you do it, and 2) changing it to something that’s better for your body.
You can – and should – follow along on the blog each week, but to get even more out of the challenge, you can join the mailing list. When you sign up, you’ll receive a free weekly video exercise that will give you some extra insight into that week’s habit. Plus, get support, extra tips and some community at the Healthy Habits 30 Day Challenge Facebook page.
For week #1, we’re getting right down to the nitty gritty. I’ve picked holding tension in the pelvic floor, aka butt clenching, aka butt gripping – as the first habit to start working on.
Habit #1 – Are you a Butt-Clencher?
If you’re a modern human, you’re likely a butt clencher. You are probably clenching your butt right now, without even knowing it. I was a butt clencher for years, and I’ve run into very few people who don’t grip their pelvic floors on a habitual basis. It’s like clenching your jaw or hunching your shoulders – just one of the things we do when we aren’t paying attention.
This is what a clenched butt looks like – the dead giveaway is the sort of flat arrowhead look at the bottom where it meets my legs. Lots of wrinkles in that area are also a tell-tale sign:
And this is how your relaxed and happy butt should look:
Why Is Butt-Clenching Bad?
This is what your pelvic floor looks like. From the inside. So you can see it really is like a bowl or container, holding all your stuff:
When you continually hold unnecessary tension in the pelvic floor, these muscles shorten and may start to fail.
When your pelvic floor fails, leakage can happen. Or your organs can start to fall out. Or the issue can show up as pain, in your pelvis or in other parts of your body like your lower back. It’s basically not awesome.
Why Do We Clench Our Butts?
Why do we clench our butts? A few reasons. Butt clenching is sometimes done on purpose because it gets taught to people as a way to improve core strength (it’s not – it creates tension rather than strength). Similarly, people who have poor core strength will often grip – it’s an attempt to fake it. It also goes along with with poor alignment (if the hips move ahead of the ankles). Physical trauma may also be a cause. Plus, the pelvic floor is very, very responsive to our emotions and it tightens when we get stressed out.
Becoming Aware Of (and Also Fixing) Pelvic Floor Tension
To release your pelvic floor/butt, step one is becoming aware that you’re holding tension there in the first place.
To notice whether you’re holding unnecessary pelvic floor tension, try taking a deep breath, directing it deep into your abdomen and towards your pelvic floor.
Imagine that your insides are a balloon and feel your breath inflate it from the inside out. Try to feel your sitbones move slightly wider as you breath in. Or try imagining that you’re about to pee – let everything soften.
As you exhale slowly, try to notice the entire area gently rebound upwards.
Try taking 3-5 breaths this way, and take note of what you feel.
Finish by really letting everything relax – as though you are going to pee, but stop short of actually doing so. Try to maintain this feeling of relaxation.
If you don’t feel much, don’t despair – you just need to keep practicing this exercise and gradually you’ll build increased body awareness. Also try doing this exercise in different positions – standing, sitting, kneeling, or lying down will all create slightly different sensations.
This exercise is a two-fer (my favorite type) because it helps you notice that you’re holding pelvic floor tension, but it also helps you let it go. So just by raising your awareness, you’re fixing the habit. Super efficient.
A Week Of Habit Changing
The best goals are specific and measurable. So for this next week, I’m going to ask that you set six daily check-in alarms for yourself. Every time the alarm rings, you’ll do the pelvic floor awareness exercise above. 6x a day, for 3-5 breaths.
For extra practice, try leaving a sticky note on your bathroom mirror and in front of your kitchen sink. Each time you see the note, use the breathing exercise to check in with yourself again.
Take note of the sensations you experience over the week. Did anything change from the first time you did this exercise? Do you find yourself always holding tension down there, or do you feel that your pelvic floor is fairly relaxed.
When I do this exercise, I’m often surprised to find that I’m holding more tension down there than I thought! I’m looking forward to hearing what you find over on Facebook!
P.S. Extra Pelvic Floor Goodness on the way!
Pelvic floor health is a big deal! Releasing tension there is an amazing start, but if you want to learn more, I’m going to be running a Pelvic Floor Tone-Up workshop on July 25.