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Can our breathing pattern affect pelvic floor function?

Khalid Ghanima

Posted on October 23 2018

Can our breathing pattern affect pelvic floor function?

Can our breathing pattern affect pelvic floor function?


In short, the answer is yes. But why does our breathing affect our pelvic floor function? What can we do in our everyday lives to optimise both?

A little anatomy knowledge is useful to understand how our breathing is connected to our pelvic floor.

Our diaphragm is our largest and most efficient breathing muscle, it is a dome shaped muscle that is attached to our lower ribcage.


Our pelvic floor is a sling of muscles that run from the back of our pelvis (sit bones and tailbone) to the front of our pelvis (pubic bone). Our pelvic floor muscles support our organs from below. They control the release of urine and faeces from our body as well as being part or our core muscle group that supports our pelvis.


Now how does our diaphragm and pelvic floor work together? When we breath in our diaphragm flattens. This presses our organs down towards our pelvic floor. Our pelvic floor lengthens slightly to accommodate this pressure. On our breath out the opposite happens, the diaphragm returns to its dome shape and the pelvic floor contracts (shortens) slightly. In a healthy pelvic floor this rhythm occurs naturally all day. However, in a dysfunctional pelvic floor this rhythm is interrupted for some reason.


There are numerous reasons why the rhythm between pelvic floor and breathing can be disrupted. Examples include: trauma to pelvic floor during childbirth, surgery, back pain, lung disease, urinary tract infections. Today I will show you a simple and safe exercise to start to re-establish a healthy rhythm between your breath and your pelvic floor.


Connect Breathing to Pelvic Floor

  1. Lie on your back, knees bent, hands resting on tummy. Allow your body to relax. Try to feel your lower ribs relax onto the floor.

  2. Breathe in through your nose. Keep your belly soft. Feel belly rise into your hands during the breath in. Feel the lower ribcage expand.

  3. Breath out through your nose, notice belly draw in towards your spine.

Repeat steps 1-3 for 2minutes then add in the following visualization to help build a connection between your breathing and pelvic floor.

-On your breath in visualize diaphragm flattening, organs pressing down and pelvic floor lengthening.

-On breath out visualize diaphragm doming back up towards your heart, organs moving up and pelvic floor shortening/lifting.

Practice this breathing exercise for 3minutes

A useful tip: the next time you are bursting for the loo, try using exhale breaths to contract your pelvic floor. This will work much better than holding your breath in!


By Sarah Diskin (Physiotherapist, Pilates Instructor, Yoga Teacher)

Optimise Movement