Working as the physical therapist for the Atlanta Ballet, Amanda Blackmon often sees dancers who report hip pain, high hamstring strain or sacroiliac sensitivity and soreness. And while there are a host of reasons for such pains, including the often discussed gripped glute and hip flexor muscles, there is one overlooked culprit: dysfunction in the pelvic floor muscles. Though pelvic floor health has become a hot topic for women postpartum who often need to strengthen weakened and compromised muscles, there is a different set of concerns when it comes to athletes and dancers. "I often see a hypertonic pelvic floor," says Blackmon, "meaning the muscles are overactive or gripped and tight. Also, the obturator internus muscle is an external rotator that is also part of the pelvic floor. When that is gripped (particularly in turnout), it can refer pain to several places around the hip and high hamstring."
Happy Baby<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTQwNDE3NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNzczNzA3M30.bKeVP9FONKi6kEs1cGzRj9BbyYRiBHGWLXlsWCWAinY/img.jpg?width=980" id="19717" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="61f969a9148f0738f40ca973f6a77671" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Ashley Wegman, Atlanta Ballet; courtesy of the author<p>Breathing in this abducted position allows a dancer to find their pelvic floor muscles without being confused by overactive adductor, gluteus or abdominal muscles. The diaphragm is like a plunger that resides right underneath your lungs. When you breathe in, your lungs expand, and the diaphragm and pelvic floor both drop downward (this is when the pelvic floor should relax). When you exhale, they both lift up (this is when the pelvic floor should contract). </p><p><strong>1.</strong> Lie on your back with your legs apart in the air, knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Hold onto the outside edges of your feet.</p><p><strong>2.</strong> Aim to reach your sitz bones away from your head so you can find a lengthened spine and the most neutral pelvis possible.</p><p><strong>3.</strong> As you exhale, feel a gentle pulling of the navel to spine and a relaxation of your pelvic floor. Your pelvis should stay stable and neutral during the contraction of this muscle. </p><p><strong>4.</strong> As you inhale, allow your belly to rise gently. You can try bearing down during the inhale to drop your pelvic floor muscles (just as you would when you need to relieve bladder or bowels). Take 10 complete breaths, alternating between releasing and contracting.</p>
Deep Sumo Squat<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTQwNDE5NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMTUzMDgxN30.xq0NjTnBR_Olgw90r4QS7RcbfLLb4HDRAWDlX-tjYh4/img.jpg?width=980" id="04c96" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="936b3208c3d3937b633b375e90f0caa8" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Ashley Wegman, Atlanta Ballet; courtesy of the author<p> This supported squat is a nice stretch for dancers and allows any gripped pelvic floor muscles the chance to release and can help relieve constipation caused by such gripping. "In Asian cultures, this is a posture for naturally relaxing in order to go to the bathroom," says Blackmon. </p><p><strong>1.</strong> In a wider than hip-width stance, feet and knees slightly turned out, hold on to a door frame or other stable surface at hip level. </p><p><strong>2.</strong> Allow your knees to bend and your hips to sink into a deep squat. </p><p><strong>3.</strong> Take a few deep breaths here and think of dropping or lowering the pelvic floor. </p><p><strong>4.</strong> To stand up, send your weight back into your heels as you stretch your knees (creating a sort of flat back, hamstring stretch position) before bringing your torso up over your legs. This works to prevent gripping to stand up.</p><p><strong>5.</strong> Repeat 5–10 times.</p>
Roll Downs on the Wall<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xOTQwNDE5OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MzM4MDU0NH0.5EZRx-LafGVbubhev-OjcBoyJ61M_UORlyhR_1jUQuQ/img.jpg?width=980" id="c9dc9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ea0a08a3fc35ed8425c4457659f6b8a1" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Ashley Wegman, Atlanta Ballet; courtesy of the author<p>A healthy pelvic floor works in tandem with the diaphragm in a pumping action. For dancers, inhaling also enables spinal extension (aka arabesque) and quite often a dysfunctional pattern can arise where the ribcage becomes stuck in extension if the pelvic floor is gripped and not working properly. Therefore, finding flexion in the thoracic spine can help get the diaphragm and pelvic floor moving functionally again between contraction and release.</p><p><strong>1.</strong> Stand with your back against a wall, feet about 10 inches away in front of you. Allow negative space for your cervical and lumbar curves away from the wall.</p><p><strong>2. </strong>On an exhale, begin rolling your head forward and down toward the ground, peeling your spine off the wall. Keep your hips and the lowest part of your ribcage connected to the wall.</p><p><strong>3. </strong>On an inhale, press down through your feet and restack your spine tall against the wall. Repeat 5–10 times, taking care not to overtuck your chin or your hips so that you can focus on curling through your ribcage.</p>