A-choo! Oh rats. I peed a little in my pants. Incontinence, while super embarrassing and generally inconvenient, is also totally healable… Naturally.
So if tears run down your leg when you laugh and you find yourself avoiding trampolines for fear of a leakage, I have some powerful information to share with you.
But before we look at how you can begin your healing journey, let’s get super clear on what your personal plumbing issue is, and what’s causing it.
What is incontinence?
In a nutshell, incontinence is the involuntary loss of one’s bladder control.
There are many forms of incontinence; but the most common two are stress incontinence and urge incontinence.
Let’s look at stress incontinence first.
Something stresses the pelvic muscles – we’re talking about things like coughing, sneezing, laughing, running or jumping – and you leak a little.
Chances are you had no warning of needing to pee; the stressor happened and out came some urine.
This is why people often refer to stress incontinence as having a leaky bladder.
Stress incontinence is generally (but not always) associated with a lack of muscle tone in the pelvic floor, or what is also known as hypotonic muscles.
The pelvic floor muscle should contract when you cough or bounce on a trampoline to stop any leakage.
But if your pelvic floor muscles are weak, they simply don’t have the strength to do this.
If you’re like ‘But my pelvic floor i strong’ have a read of my blog Do I have a weak pelvic floor or a strong pelvic floor? as you might be surprised by what you learn.
Other causes of stress incontinence can be due to a loss of fascia support or a lack of pelvic-floor co-ordination, caused by unhealthy bathroom habits.
In contrast, with urge incontinence there will be a clear sensation of needing to pee.
The urge comes seemingly out of nowhere, and now you just gotta go!
Over time as the condition worsens key-in-the-door syndrome may occur.
This is where you can hold on until you get home, then as you’re unlocking your front door, or just as your walk into your toilet, the urine spills out before you’ve had a chance to unzip your pants.
Urge incontinence is the result of the detrusor muscle (which is part of the the bladder and is responsible for contracting to let out your urine when you pee) contracting when you don’t want it to!
While it’s not directly a pelvic floor problem, a person is likely to use pelvic floor muscle contractions to hold onto the urine, and over time, this leads to overly tight – or hypertonic – pelvic floor muscles.
When you have the urge to go, while it may seem counter-intuitive, often the best thing you can do in this second case, is relax your pelvic floor.
You can also put direct pressure on the perineum.
What you also need to understand, is that giving in to the urge to pee, when you don’t have a full bladder, actually sets up a faulty brain-bladder connection.
Once this happens, you start to experience the desire to urinate even if there is little or no urine present.
Hence the need for establishing healthy bathroom habits.
Urge incontinence goes hand-in-hand with constipation.
So making sure you have regular bowel movements is really important.
If this is a problem for you, check out my blog Constipation: Do you have trouble pooping?
Now before you ask… Yes… it’s also possible to have both stress and urge incontinence at the same time!
This can come about from taking an unhealthy approach to healing one type of incontinence.
For example, having a weak pelvic floor and doing stacks of Kegels to try and firm it up. Instead of strengthening it, because Kegeling is usually ineffective, you create a heap of tension (more on this shortly).
What’s left is a pelvic floor that is both weak and holding a lot of tension.
OK… so now that we’ve covered Incontinence 101, I really want to highlight something important…
Incontinence is one of the most common pelvic issues for women.
You are not alone in this social catastrophe that can lead to embarrassing little accidents.
Urinary incontinence, according to Yale University of Medicine, actually affects at least 60% of women post-birth.
And given most cases go unreported, those stats could be far higher!
While women may head to the yoga studio to help heal incontinence, often this doesn’t help either, as Mula Bandah (engaging and resting the perineum) is often taught during moving asana, as a practice to help the pelvic floor.
If you look at the ancient yogic texts, it becomes very clear that Mula Bandah was intended to be carried out while still.
Aside from this, Mula Bandah was also created by men for men, so it doesn’t take into account the differences between male and female anatomy.
Hence to say, it’s no surprise that 26 percent of yoga and pilates teachers actually experience incontinence.
They are being taught to work with the pelvic floor in a way that works against its natural functioning, thus creating incontinence and/or making the problem worse.
Evidence of this growing epidemic surrounds us.
Just look in any drug or grocery store aisle and you’ll find row after row of adult pads and diapers.
Women are not talking about incontinence, because of fear, shame and embarrassment.
And this has led to a lack of good education on why incontinence begins and how to heal it naturally.
What causes incontinence?
Ok, first thing we need to understand is that incontinence is a symptom of a problem, not the root problem.
And when we don’t look at the root problem, then any treatment for incontinence is unlikely to work; think surgery or pills.
What is the root problem?
For many of us, we were conditioned from a very young age to have an unhealthy relationship with our bladder.
Think nappy training, then potty training.
I say ‘nappy’ training because despite what you may have been led to believe, babies are not incontinent.
Yes, even newborn babies know when they need to go!
Babies give off very clear signals that they need to pee or poop, and it’s only because they don’t have the speaking ability to express this to their carers, that it may seem like they’re randomly relieving themselves.
I share more in my blog Elimination Communication: Pottying from birth.
But essentially what I’m saying, is by relying on nappies, we condition our children away from connecting to those natural instincts, and essentially teach them to use the nappy as a toilet.
This conditions the child to become incontinent due to the parental convenience of nappies.
Then, they get to around 2 or 3 years old and we confuse the whole matter, by telling them that actually no, it’s not ok to use nappies, you need to pee and poop in a potty/toilet.
Taking this approach is not only confusing for the toddler, but confusing for the toddler’s bladder, and sets up some deep programming about how the bladder should perform.
Add to this long car trips where children are told to ‘hold on’, and you start to set up an unhealthy brain/bladder connection.
A child may or may not experience incontinence for many years, maybe not ’til their 30s or 50s.
But then something happens, they give birth themselves, and this old programming – or wounding – kicks in.
The weakness was always there, it just needed something to trigger it off.
Giving birth, while a profound transformative experience, can often lead to physical changes in the body, and in particular in how the pelvic organs, fascia and muscles talk to each other.
Even after the most positive birth experience, the body can end up fragile and leaky, both physically and energetically, especially if there’s deep-seated programming from your childhood.
This is even more the case if a woman hasn’t built a strong and healthy physical foundation before conceiving.
Without a toned and supple pelvic floor, childbirth can weaken the pelvic floor significantly causing a ‘sinking’ effect in the uterus.
Now there’s a bit of a myth that incontinence only happens after childbirth.
While this is common, women in their 20s, pre-birth, can experience incontinence.
Incontinence can also strike during menopause, as the body is going through another major transition.
If you haven’t developed a healthy relationship with your pelvis; and by that, I mean directly working with your sexual organs to keep them toned and juicy, if you have unresolved trauma of any kind such as sexual trauma or birth trauma, or even if you’ve had a really negative relationship with your periods throughout your fertile years, then menopause is likely to be more difficult for you, with the body experiencing more side-effects, such as incontinence.
Even bowel disfunction can trigger bladder dysfunction.
Those two go hand in hand.
Incontinence, while it can lead to prolapse, can also be a side-effect of an already existing prolapse.
When you experience prolapse, the mis-alignment of the organs can put pressure on the bladder, causing it to malfunction.
Now in exploring things that trigger incontinence, we need to look at bathroom habits…
How you pee – position, whether you try to help you pee out or not, and so forth – all contribute to either a healthy functioning bladder, or a confused mal-functioning bladder.
The other big trigger for incontinence is expecting the pelvic floor to support the sexual organs by not having a healthy posture.
More on this in a moment!
Women accept that incontinence is normal post-birth, when it is not.
Just because you’re getting older doesn’t mean that incontinence is inevitable.
Incontinence is the sign of subconscious conditioning around how to use our bladder.
Add into the mix some habitual patterns such as bad posture or unhealthy bathroom habits, trauma of some kind, and some difficult transitional womanly milestones (think birth and menopause) and you have incontinence.
Now before we move on, just because you may have experienced some or all of the above, doesn’t mean incontinence is irreversible.
If you take nothing else away from this blog, please understand that it is not normal to leak, even with exercise or sneezing.
The body is designed to heal itself, given the right conditions.
Please say this out loud: ‘I do not have to experience incontinence!’
You can heal yourself, and I will get to that shortly, but before I do, just a few words on pregnancy.
It’s quite normal to experience incontinence during pregnancy, as the ligaments are all relaxing to make it possible for baby to easily exit the body.
If this happens, don’t be alarmed.
Your body is doing all the right things, to facilitate the exit of your precious baby.
Simply love your body for the big job it is currently undertaking, knowing this period of incontinence won’t last forever, and your body will be ready to bounce back from pregnancy once you’ve had time to heal post-birth.
You can begin a Yoga for the Vagina practice using the Jade Egg once you’ve been cleared to have sex again (usually around 6 weeks after giving birth) so you can heal any weaknesses that may have occurred during pregnancy or birth.
Long term side-effects of incontinence.
Left to leak havoc into our lives, incontinence can lead to further problems of the pelvis.
Yes, chronic conditions like urinary incontinence are progressive.
Left alone, they don’t get better, they usually get worse.
Prolapse being the big one.
Now I won’t go into detail about prolapse here, as I’ve written a blog specifically on this topic.
You can read my blog Are you at risk of sexual organ prolapse? for all the details.
But prolapse is when the pelvic structure has become weak, and an organ (usually the bladder, bowel or uterus) or the intestines or vaginal walls fall out of place.
If the incontinence is chronic those organs can fall right on out through the vagina.
Shocking I know!
And some experts believe that the bladder is the most susceptible to prolapse.
If the bladder is under pressure – from a pelvic floor that is either too weak or too tense – then there is even greater risk of it prolapsing.
So while I certainly don’t want to send you into a panic, I do want to highlight the importance of healing incontinence earlier rather than later, because the worse the symptoms become, the more difficult and timely it is to heal.
I believe all conditions are healable, but in worse cases, it does take longer, and you usually need to take a more intensive approach to your healing.
Of course, incontinence is more than just a physical problem.
While not life threatening, incontinence is definitely quality-of-life threatening.
For some people it’s just a minor inconvenience.
For others it can cause shame, fear and contribute to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.
And the more negative emotion we experience, the more of a toll this takes on our physical body, further worsening the condition.
If you’re reading this blog, chances are you don’t want a standard medical treatment.
Perhaps you’ve been down that road and experienced one of the horrifying results of some of the barbaric interventions that are being performed these days.
So how do I heal incontinence?
I can just do Kegels, right?
While that may have been what your doctor advised you to do, chances are your incontinence has become worse since doing them.
This is what many women report.
Kegels are the typical go-to as a non-surgical treatment for incontinence.
Like pumping biceps and quads, it’s believed that contractions of the pelvic wall will strengthen this area.
‘Do more Kegels!’ women keep being told!
Ok, there are many problems with Kegels, and I discuss them in detail in my blog Kegel exercises: Do they really work?
But what I will share with you now, is that for one: When women are told to do Kegels, they are rarely given exact instruction on ‘how’.
There are many layers and dimensions to the pelvic floor, and the pelvis as a whole.
If a woman doesn’t know how to feel the three layers of the pelvic floor, how is she going to activate the right muscles?
Many women ‘think’ they are doing Kegels, when they’re actually just squeezing the buttocks or worse, the muscle that stops urine flow, which is actually harmful.
Doing any kind of vaginal or pelvic contraction needs to be accompanied by solid education.
Another problem is that women squeeze, squeeze squeeze, without focusing on the release.
One of the main causes of incontinence is tension in the pelvic floor.
You don’t want to be tightening an already tight muscle, as tightness doesn’t translate to healthy.
Too much tightness in the pelvic floor leads to a malfunctioning pelvic floor, and weakness in the surrounding organs, ie. Your bladder!
The pelvic floor also needs to work in harmony with the members of the deep core and the global stability muscles, particularly the glutes.
This is why Kegels are not a good option when wanting to create a healthy pelvic floor, as you’re only working with one isolated muscle.
Any squeezing you do down there needs to be married into a more holistic movement that helps work with the entire pelvic system.
When you do this, you’re able to create both strength and flexibility, and when you have a balance between the two, that’s when you have happy, healthy sexual organs!
Ok, so how do I heal incontinence?
First of all, you need to take full responsibly for the problem.
In others words, don’t offload the problem to physician, drug or surgeon.
A magical pill or surgery isn’t going to solve the issue for you, because these are simply band-aid solutions; they don’t get the core of the problem.
Incontinence is a symptom of something deeper going on; something that unfortunately, the medical system rarely looks at.
You need to treat the cause, not the symptom.
Incontinence is the symptom.
To heal incontinence you need to look at and address four key factors:
- Bathroom Habits
- Unresolved physical and emotional trauma and/or programming
- Healthy internal pelvic exercise.
To sum that up, you need to resolve past hurts and re-learn how to use yourself better!
The body knows how to function optimally, it’s our habits and societal conditioning that get in the way of our internal wisdom.
Posture is a key element in restoring urinary health.
A woman’s posture – the way she holds herself – plays a big role on how healthy and well supported her internal organs are.
If we iron out the natural womanly curves of the back, it weakens the internal organs.
Things like sucking in your belly to appear thin (many women unconsciously do this due to conditioning), wearing high heels, and tucking your tailbone in yoga class, all get in the way of being able to maintain a healthy posture.
A healthy posture is one that allows the natural curves of your back to stay in place so your sacrum is at a 30 degree angle.
You want to feel your feet (or sit bones if sitting) rooting down into the surface below you, heart lifted slightly, shoulders relaxed down your back and crown drawing to the sky.
I can’t emphasis enough, how crucial correct pelvic alignment is when your sitting, standing, walking or doing anything really!
If your sacrum is not at that 30 degree angle, then your sexual organs are resting directly on the pelvic floor.
Contrary to common belief, the pelvic floor is not designed to support our sexual organs.
That’s the job of the pubic bone!
Yes, one of the major lifestyle patterns that exacerbates or triggers off incontinence, is how we urinate.
I go into far more depth in the Yoga for the Vagina online series, with a complete peeing guide… but in a nutshell..
The pelvic floor remains unconsciously active when you are out and about living life, and when you go to urinate it relaxes.
When the pelvic floor relaxes it turns on the detrusor muscle, which contracts to empty your bladder.
We run into trouble when we do things that get in the way of this natural function from happening such as:
- Hovering over the toilet seat (the pelvic floor can’t relax when you do this)
- Stopping urinating mid-stream
- Straining or pushing the urine out to hurry up your time in the ladies room
- And using a conventional toilet!
Yep, sitting to pee on the common toilet can actually mess up your bladder’s natural functioning.
You’re better to squat on the toilet or use a foot-stall, so your plumbing is in the optimum position for letting out that pee.
I can’t emphasis enough, when you go to the toilet you need to relax and empty the bladder fully.
Only doing half a pee because you’re in a rush, or not waiting to see if there is more, will confuse your bladder.
Consciously relax your pelvic floor when you sit down to pee.
Once you’ve finished, lean forward and tilt your pelvis more anteriorly, relax again and wait for the back reservoir of the bladder to empty.
Trauma and conditioning…
Reflecting on what journey your pelvis, and in particular your bladder, has been on throughout your lifetime can shine light on where incontinence has stemmed from.
That said, you don’t need to remember it all.
Simply starting a practice that allows you to reconnect with your lady parts will begin the natural healing process.
This can happen through being more aware and respectful of how you urinate.
Vulva massage is a super powerful healing technique, as is simply placing your hand on you vulva or resting it on your pelvis and inviting your pelvis to relax into a state of healing.
I work with many women as part of my One-on-One Intensive – using a technique I have created where we get to the root cause of issues and clear them out of the subconscious mind – and we release a LOT of childhood conditioning, that directly influences the functioning of the sexual organs.
Journalling and Alexander Technique are great exercises to help explore and let go of past trauma.
As is joining in women’s circles and sharing and connecting is a beautiful way to start to get back in touch with your feminine self.
Internal pelvic exercise…
There’s plenty of awareness of the need of physical exercise, but not so much for our internal organs, and even when we do find some of that info, it’s often more harmful than helpful.
Kegels, for example (big doozy!!)
So how do we exercise our lady parts in a way that strengthens the muscles of the pelvis, while maintaining a nice balance of flexibility in the connective tissues, so our bladder can function as it was designed?
We learn how to squeeze and release not just one isolated muscle, but what I call the ‘Pelvic Parfait’; all the muscles, organs, tissues and fascia of the pelvis.
And you don’t need to become an anatomy nerd to be able to activate your pelvic parfait.
You simply need to learn how.
One other misconception is that we need to place all our focus on the squeeze, when the ‘release’ is even more important.
Women have a tendency to collect a lot of pelvic tension as they journey through life, and being able to let go and release this tension is a key to pelvic (and bladder) health.
So any pelvic exercise you do, needs to include an equal focus on strengthening and releasing.
And this is why I created Yoga for the Vagina; to give women a comprehensive program they could work through to gently ease, and fully heal incontinence.
All of what I have shared in this blog, I go into far more depth inside the Yoga for the Vagina online course, so you can heal the incontinence yourself.
Unfortunately, there is no safe surgery or effective doctor treatments for urinary incontinence.
And the truth is, you can heal incontinence yourself, if you know how.
So if you’re ready to get to the root cause of your incontinence, so you can heal it once and for all – and enjoy the freedom of laughing, crying, sneezing, running and jumping without needing to wear bulky pads for fear a public leakage – then Yoga for the Vagina will guide you there.
Yoga for the Vagina gives you a solid research-based information, and gorgeous practices that teach you the mechanics of the pelvis, and how to articulate that anatomical knowledge into a practice that nourishes you on all levels.
Yes, you get more than just a daily practice to complete, you learn how to move through life in a way that supports your pelvis in its many crucial functions; you learn how to take what you learn on the mat, into your daily activities.
You learn how to stand, walk and sit in the world, in a way that supports your sexual organs in staying in place and functioning well…
You get an in depth guide on how to make tweaks to your toilet trips so that you are peeing and pooping in a way that supports the function of your bladder…
Your get literally dozens of gorgeous practices that are designed to help you build a healthy relationship with your pelvis, and are interwoven with gentle instruction on how to release trauma and conditioning…
And you get education and practices specifically designed to help you exercise your lady parts in a way that will help them function as they are designed, right into your twilight years.
While all of the postures and practices help build urinary health, I also teach a specific way of activating both the front and the back of the continence muscle.
When you explore this practice, it will help you gain a deeper connection to what’s going on doing there, so you have more awareness of your bladder and how it works.
I lay out the fundamentals necessary to understand how to stabilise and reverse urinary incontinence.
But more than this…
You get to join a community of women who are putting their sexual health and pleasure first, so we can begin to change the relationship women world-wide have with their vagina!
Incontinence doesn’t have to be a life sentence.
The sooner you get educated about the root cause of this problem, and start to work on it proactively, the sooner you will see results.
This is an investment of time, money and modest effort on your part, which will pay big dividends for the rest of your life.
So if you’d like me to guide you to an incontinence-free life, I look forward to sharing this feminine wisdom with you.
The important thing to remember is that incontinence is reversible.
In fact, incontinence is essentially your body’s cry for help!
Your body is using incontinence as a way to get your attention, so you can stop doing the things that don’t serve you, and start doing the things that do.
Human beings can be much like trains.
We get set on a track, doing what we have always done in the past, and then wondering why conditions in our lives don’t improve.
Curing incontinence requires us to be willing to change tracks.
Look at what’s causing the issue, make adjustments to any unhealthy habits that are contributing to the incontinence, and develop a regular and healthy practice that allows us to both develop pelvic strength, while at the same time, develop the ability to release and let go.
Peeing your pants all day and having your sexual organs fall out through your vagina is NOT normal.
Don’t let any ‘expert’ make you think that.
Nobody knows your body better than you do.
The human body really does have astonishing powers when it comes to self-healing.
We simply need to create a supportive environment upon which the body can heal itself.
Once you begin connecting with your pelvis and changing your posture – as I teach in Yoga for the Vagina – you will start to notice huge changes within.
Most women notice a big difference within just a few weeks of practising what I share.
Good health, while completely natural, gets compromised by the things we do and think.
So while the body knows how to heal itself, you need to ensure you get out of its way, so that the healing can happen.
Good pelvic health is possible, but you need to consciously allow it to happen.
When you listen to your body and make appropriate changes, the symptoms stabilise, improve, and then disappear.
I hope this blog has serves you.
If you have experience incontinence please share you experience below.
The more we start sharing and connecting, the more women with incontinence will feel empowered to heal this inconvenient condition.
Oh, and if you’d like to learn more about your pelvic floor, please check out my blog The Pelvic Floor Demystified where I debunk three of the big pelvic floor myths.