Pelvic Floor and the Use of Cues to Illustrate the Purpose of a Movement

So we’ve all been that new person in the class who looks around to see if the instructor is kidding when he/she tells us to engage or lift the pelvic floor.  We try squeezing our glutes, sitting up taller and generally just squirming and hoping to hit the general vicinity of the pelvic floor. It’s clear we have no idea what to do.

But what is also clear, is that it’s really hard for instructors to help us with this “engagement.”  There are zero tactile cues to help us locate this muscle that could be considered appropriate and I’ve heard any manor of cringe-worthy verbal cues.  My personal favorites include “lift your lady parts” and “squeeze the muscle that you would use to keep a tampon from falling out.” That last one came from a male physio, beet red with embarrassment!

This gets back to the fundamental issue – cues need to be relatable and accessible, maybe even universally so.  If a cue makes you uncomfortable, it’s probably making some others in the class feel the same way.  Cues need to serve a purpose: ask yourself why is it important for the client to be aware of a certain muscle or chain during a particular movement?  Analyzing the purpose behind movements and muscle groups can help us come up with great cues.

Back to the pelvic floor – engaging through the midline (including the pelvic floor!) in a seated position can add inches to a client’s seated height – in other words, it is integral to axial elongation.  Even though we know this, locating and isolating the pelvic floor is no easy feat, and describing it to a client is even more challenging.


The following cue helps illustrate, not just the muscles you’re interested in drawing attention to, but also their purpose.  Imagine that the trunk is an elevator shaft and the spine is the thick cable that the elevator car runs along.  Now imagine that the elevator car is on the ground floor.  Ask the client to steadily move the elevator up to the crown of the head, along the cable, or spine.  This is a challenge – mentally and physically – when you first set out, but once the imagery is in place, the movement becomes much more accessible.  For added benefits and challenge, have the client return the car back to the ground floor, gradually and with control.  Moving the elevator up and down the cable will increase awareness of those deep muscles so that the next time the client is asked to use them, they are easier to locate.


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