Your pelvic floor is the group of muscles and connective tissues at the bottom of your pelvis. It connects to several other muscle groups in your body, including your hips, and dysfunction in this area can cause an array of issues. So keeping it healthy is important — especially as you age.
A healthy pelvic floor keeps your pelvic organs in place, which plays a role in proper bladder, bowel and sexual function, according to the Cleveland Clinic. In yoga, the pelvic floor is the "root" of your body, and it's important for your overall stability.
Kegels may come to mind when you think about your pelvic floor, but just as it's important to keep those muscles strong, it's also crucial to keep them flexible. Tension can build up due to things like childbirth, sitting for long periods of time and even the normal aging process, which can cause the muscles to become weak over time.
Tight hips often accompany a tight pelvic floor (especially from lots of sitting), and if you're dealing with pain or discomfort in either of these areas, practicing yoga can help.
Yoga Poses to Relax Your Pelvic Floor and Hips
Practicing yoga is a great way to relax your pelvic floor and hip muscles. Tension in any part of your body can be caused by stress, and deep diaphragmatic breathing (which is typically practiced in yoga) can help you relax, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
The restorative yoga poses below specifically target the muscles in and around the pelvic floor and hip area to help lengthen and relax them — all you need is a few minutes a day.
1. Happy Baby Pose (Ananda Balasana)
Happy baby is one of the best poses for relaxing your mind and body. It has specific benefits for the pelvic floor, too, because it stretches muscles in and around the pelvis, like your hips, groin, glutes and hamstrings.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet planted firmly on the ground. Take a deep breath into your rib cage.
- On your exhale, keep your knees bent and draw them in toward you so that they come close to your armpits.
- With your shoulders pinned to the floor (don’t let them lift up), grab hold of the outsides of your feet. If you can’t reach your feet, you can grab hold of your shins or the backs of your knees or thighs.
- Use your hands to gently pull your feet (or wherever you’re holding) toward your face.
- Press your tailbone and your head into the ground to lengthen your spine.
- Take 5 to 10 deep breaths in the pose.
2. Reclined Cobbler’s Pose
Reclined cobbler's pose is another posture that stretches your inner thighs and groin, which can become short and tight with everyday activities, like sitting for long periods of time. It also stretches the front of your pelvis, helping to release your lower back and pelvic floor.
- Lie on your back with your feet planted firmly on the ground. Take a deep inhale into your rib cage.
- Place your hands on the outsides of your knees and bring the bottoms of your feet together.
- On your exhale, slowly open your knees out to the sides, lowering them toward the ground. (If you’re feeling uncomfortable or unable to relax, place a pillow or block under each of your knees for more support).
- Place your hands on the sides of your rib cage to encourage deep, diaphragmatic breaths. You should feel like your ribs are opening 360 degrees (out to both sides and front to back).
- Take 5 to 10 deep breaths in the pose.
3. Reclined Pigeon Pose (Figure Four)
Reclined pigeon pose, known as a "figure four" stretch (also a great pigeon pose modification), helps to stimulate blood flow to the entire pelvic region, and it lengthens your piriformis — a stabilizing muscle in your hips. This large rotator muscle can also become tight with everyday activity and lead to pelvic floor issues.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet planted firmly on the floor. Bring your heels close to your butt.
- Keeping your knees bent, place your left ankle onto your right knee, opening your left knee out to the side.
- On an inhale, use your left hand to press your left knee away from you. You should start feeling the stretch in your glute area. Press your lower back into the floor to keep your spine long.
- On an exhale, lift your right foot to bring the “figure four” in toward your upper body.
- Grab hold of the back of your right thigh with both hands to deepen the stretch. Don’t let your shoulders lift off the ground.
- Take 5 to 10 deep breaths into your rib cage, relaxing your pelvic muscles on each exhale.
- Release your hands and lower your right foot back to the ground, then lower your left foot back down and repeat on the other side.