It sounds so simple, huh? It can be, but for some it is SO HARD. My favorite thing to do is get down on the floor, prop my legs up on a table/bed/couch/ottoman and just chill out.
Focus on doing your really amazing 360 breathing and moving those ribs laterally (out to the side). Hang out as long as you feel comfortable, but I usually end up spending anywhere from five minutes to an hour (if I fall asleep!). So deeply relaxing.
The back can relax fully, too, which is great for tension/pain. Let your legs really flop to the sides and pay attention to *anywhere* you are holding tension. I store mine in my left groin and jaw 😎 So mindfulness is key here. Put something under your head if it is uncomfortable for your neck or your ribs thrust too much.
See if you can feel your breathing down into your pelvic floor. This will help relax things, big time. To me, it feels like my bum is expanding/opening, and that is how most people describe the sensation in my experience. This is a good thing for all my tight pelvic floors! You have to learn how to let go and allow it to expand fully in order for it to effectively contract completely and at the right time.
Passive Hip Flexor Release
Tight hip flexors. Everyone's got them. And everyone is always wanting to stretch them. The problem is that most people aren't even targeting the source of the problem, the actual hip flexors. The psoas muscles! They are deep, they are long, and they influence so many things. You can have someone do it manually by pushing around viscera and poking in a most uncomfortable manner, but it is effective, and actually quite delicious. But, in the absence of a set of practiced and knowledgeable hands, the passive route is quite effective and also a great way to chill out the system and force some downtime for yourself.
For my postpartum mamas, tight psoas muscles are most evident in those of us with more of an anterior pelvic tilt and/or a high lumbar curve (a.k.a. a hinge point). This is the big “scoop” in your low/mid back that sticks around even after baby has arrived. The culprit can be a few things, but for today’s tip we are targeting the psoas.
The psoas runs down either side of the spine from T12 to L4, grabbing onto each vertebrae along the way, and having attachments with the diaphragm, moves at an angle out towards hips and then wraps itself a bit to attach into the inner part of each hip (in the groin area) at the lesser trochanters. It is huge and you have two. It’s prime activity is hip flexion. Stretch all day like a lot of commercial exercise videos show you for “hip flexor stretching” but most likely you (and they) are not targeting the main player. Hence, the uphill battle with hip flexors.
Get thee a beach towel rolled up or a firm yoga-type blanket folded up a few times, place it under the sacrum, bend your knees, and just let yourself relax into the position. No forcing ribs down, just let gravity do its work. I usually hang out here 3-5 min each time, 1-2x/day. The anterior pelvic tilt (think butt sticking out) I have had FOREVER improves significantly when I stay focused on releasing the psoas muscles. I prefer passive because I can do it myself, it doesn't hurt(!), and I can work on my OM while I hang out which then helps with vagal tone (getting that vagus nerve on board) 🧘♀️, and I can then do my core strengthening and actually make some gains because everything is lined up as it should be allowing for optimal muscles firing and recruitment. It's like the nesting doll of exercise!
Having your psoas muscles relaxed allows them to work most efficiently when you actually need them, and it also allows you to hold a neutral pelvis without fighting tight muscles. Everything works together. Isn’t it so beautiful?!
Another quick chill trick: left tragus stimulation. The tragus is that part of your ear that sticks out over the opening (in the pic) and tapping or gently rubbing this part of your LEFT ear for *30 seconds* stimulates the “rest and digest” part of the nervous system (parasympathetic, vagus nerve) and will bring you a needed chill out. DO NOT do the other side. LEFT SIDE only :)
Really, that’s it. Seems too simple? I know. But try it and see what you think. Sitting in traffic? Tap away. Kids screaming at you for the 18,472 time today? Tap tap tap. Sitting in a frustrating meeting? Tappity tap tap. Feeling pelvic floor heaviness more? All of the tapping! Watching/reading the news? Turn it off and tap the rest of the day! Kidding, but only a little.
As a member of the hypertonic (tight) pelvic floor group it is especially important to continue to add to my relaxation skillset and find ways to make it happen regularly so that I can decrease symptoms. I love this trick for its simplicity and ability to do it anywhere.
Unnecessary stress can lead to all sorts of damage and our pelvic floor is one area particularly vulnerable to stress. Tension in your face? Shoulders? Neck? Very likely the same thing is happening down below. Go try it and show that vagus nerve some love!
Quick Chill: Full Body Breathing
We all need to take a chill pill, multiple times daily. Especially if you are a parent. Or a human. Try this one out for size and see what you think. No side effects, just straight relaxation. The hardest part is remembering to take a step back when you need it.
Did you know that your pelvic floor also responds to your perceived stress? For me, it tenses up and the symptoms can flood in (hello leaking, hello pelvic floor heaviness, hello frustration!). Having awareness helps to keep those things at bay. Luckily, the pelvic floor also responds well to our ability to chill out. And, just because you've had a bad pelvic floor day it does not mean you are ruined for life. Nope. Stop your pity party and start taking care of yourself again. There is not better time to start than now! We all have setbacks, but we all have the power to move past it and improve a little more each time.
What is your favorite quick chill movement or stillness?
Runner, lifter of children, PTA, CPT, PCES, pelvic health zealot