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Jul 242013
 

In last week’s blog, I covered some invaluable exercises for women, to help strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. This week, it’s the guys’ turn, as I offer a few simple methods for bringing greater balance to this vital area.

So what are the pelvic floor or ‘PC’ muscles, and why is it so important for men to do regular pelvic floor exercises? Well, these muscles form a ‘hammock’ at the base of the pelvis, supporting the prostate gland, the bladder and the bowel. They also help to control the workings of these organs – but during strenuous activities like lifting or jumping, or even during coughing or sneezing, the pressure on the pelvic floor can lead to a brief but embarrassing loss of control of the bowel or bladder.

As guys grow older, many can develop urinary problems associated with a weakened prostate gland and a lack of control in the pelvic floor. Obviously, this possibility is great motivation to work this area, to prevent any embarrassing episodes! But that’s not the only reason for spending a little time each day on some simple exercises. With orgasm beginning from the prostate and perineum, working your PC muscle can also strengthen erections, intensify orgasms and even help you to separate orgasm from ejaculation.

Here’s a way to test the strength of your PC muscle. When you’re about to urinate, stand on the toes and balls of your feet, then take a deep breath in and begin to pee as you slowly exhale. Then mid-stream, inhale and squeeze your pelvic floor muscles to stop the flow. Exhale and continue peeing. Try and repeat a few times until you’ve finished. If you find this difficult, you probably have a weakened pelvic floor.

Don’t worry too much if that’s the case. There’s a quick and easy daily exercise you can do anywhere to retrain your pelvic floor, and once you’ve incorporated it into your routine, you’ll soon start to notice a difference. You can do this anytime, and anywhere, without anyone even knowing what you’re up to.

First of all, familiarise yourself with your PC muscles. There are actually two distinct areas to focus on:

Step 1: Tighten the muscles around the entrance to the anus, as if you’re trying to stop yourself going to the toilet. After you’ve tightened this area, let go and relax completely.

Step 2: Now get a sense of the muscles further forward, around the ‘front passage’ closer to the bladder and urethra. Pull up hard as though you’re preventing the flow of urine, then let go completely.

Step 3: Next tighten the muscles of both these areas at once, holding on for a few seconds, then letting go and relaxing for around 30 seconds.

Step 4: Do 3 quick, hard squeezes in a row of both sets of muscles, resting for 5 seconds between each flex.

Step 5: Alternate steps 3 and 4 a few times in a row, resting for 30 seconds between each sequence, and remembering to breathe normally throughout.

Just a few minutes of this each day can be enough to make a dramatic improvement to your control of this area, a more balanced sacral chakra, stronger erections, delayed ejaculation and more intense orgasms – and all things considered, that’s a great incentive for any guy who’s interested in enjoying a healthier body, and better sex!

In love and light

Taranga

Jul 152013
 

Having lunch with a friend the other day, a brief but embarrassing incident reminded me of the importance of paying attention to an often-overlooked part of our bodies. I’m sure my friend won’t mind me recounting that a particularly violent fit of belly laughs caused her to literally pee herself at the table. This all-too common problem (especially for women over 40) is often caused by weak pelvic floor muscles – but if this sometimes happens to you, there are some simple exercises you can try before rushing out to buy that packet of disposable pants!
 
The muscles of the pelvic floor are some of the most important to keep strong, for both men and women. In this week’s blog, I’ll be focusing on pelvic floor exercises for women, before turning my attention to the guys next week.
 
So firstly, what exactly is the pelvic floor, and what does it do? Well, our pelvic floor (or PC) muscles form a ‘sling’ across the floor of the pelvis. They support the bladder, uterus and rectum, providing stability to these organs, and muscular tone within the vaginal walls. They also help to close the bladder and back passage and protect them from sudden increases in abdominal pressures due to sneezing, coughing, and yep, you guessed it, laughing too hard.
 
Because we’re not taught to activate these muscles nearly enough, they often suffer from weakness – especially during and after pregnancy, after menopause, gynaecological surgery, heavy lifting, weight gain, or even something like a chronic cough. Most often, sudden unexpected urine leakage is a sign of pelvic floor weakness, especially during moments of pressure on the abdomen. If you also need to pee more, but with less volume, or even have heightened period pain or lower back ache, these symptoms can also be indicators that you need to work on strengthening this area.
 
So how to do it? Begin in a lying position to relieve the weight of your internal organs and gravity, then close off and draw up the muscles around the vagina (as if you’re stopping yourself from urinating). You may also feel the muscles in your rectum closing off. Draw up the entire area strongly and hold for 5-10 seconds. You may instinctively feel like holding your breath, but keep breathing while you do this. After a few seconds, fully relax the entire area. Repeat 5-10 times in a row. Next, do 5-10 short, fast and strong contractions, breathing all the while, and remembering to relax again afterwards. Following this, focus on the rear pelvic floor muscles around the anus, tightening and drawing them up as if you’re holding onto wind. Hold for 5-10 seconds and then relax again. You may tire quickly at first, but don’t give up! From lying down, you can progress to standing exercises, training your PC muscles in their slightly more difficult ‘fully loaded’ position.
 
Aim to do these ‘flexing’ exercises at least daily, and more than once a day if you can manage it. The beauty of this practice is that it can be done anywhere, without anyone even realising. It might be helpful at first to use coloured stickers next to the kitchen sink or bathroom mirror to trigger a reminder. Over time, you’ll find that your PC muscles become stronger, enabling you to laugh, cough or sneeze without any embarrassing side-effects.
 
Even more excitingly, activating this area can tone and strengthen the vaginal wall, stimulate the sacral chakra, open up the energetic pathways in our bodies and lead to more intense orgasms – and that, dear readers, is great news for both our physical health, and for our sex lives!
 
In love and light,
 
Taranga

Jul 092013
 

So here we are in the depths of winter, and as the nights draw in, the streets, shops, restaurants and bars become quieter, and we retreat into our homes, hermit-like in our hibernation, it’s important to remember not to become too reclusive at this time. Reading a recent review of research into loneliness, I was struck, not only by how common it is to feel chronically lonely and isolated, but also by the dramatic effects of loneliness on both our mental and physical health.
 
By loneliness, I don’t necessarily mean that fleeting feeling where a head cold forces you to spend Friday night at home while your friends are all out on the town, or that forlorn tinge when you put that microwaveable meal for one in your shopping basket at the supermarket. Real, long-term loneliness is a sustained lack of closeness with others, a lack of emotional intimacy and a continued feeling of sorrow, worthlessness and despair – and it’s affecting more and more of us.
 
There’s a difference between loneliness and aloneness, too. It’s possible to be alone and yet not lonely. Loneliness is about an absence of love, not just of people – so even people in relationships can feel lonely. At its core, loneliness is a feeling of being unlovable, and science is discovering that a continued sense of isolation and a lack of closeness can play havoc on our hormones and exacerbate diseases as far-ranging as Alzheimer’s, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and even some forms of cancers.
 
There’s much proof to back this up, including a study done on the tens of thousands of Romanian orphans born during the reign of Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, who banned birth control. The many children who suffered as a result often grew up in Dickensian-like orphanages, and upon scanning their brains, it was found that these children developed substantially less ‘gray matter’ (the neurons that hard-wire the brain), and also less ‘white matter’, which helps send signals from one part of the brain to another. This meant that the areas of the brain responsible for memory, emotions, decision-making and social interaction just weren’t connecting, leading to all kinds of developmental, educational, emotional and physical disorders in later life.
 
There’s also a real stigma attached to feelings of loneliness. Being lonely can be perceived as a decidedly unattractive trait. It’s as if there’s something about loneliness to be ashamed of, and solitary souls can feel ‘less’ than those with seemingly more successful social lives. And when there’s so much pressure on finding ‘the one’, and enjoying a relationship that can fulfill of our emotional needs, those without one can even be seen as needy or desperate in their desire to have that special someone.
 
So what’s the solution? Well, first of all, it’s important to realise that we thrive best with different kinds of love. We don’t have to put all our eggs in one basket and expect one person to provide everything for our happiness. We need to nurture ALL our relationships, investing in our communication and opening up to our friends, neighbours and work colleagues, so we can take greater care of each other during tough times.
 
It doesn’t only ‘take a village to raise a child’ – it also takes a village to provide the emotional advancement we need as adults. That means checking in with each other and letting others know we’re there for them, offering a little extra emotional investment and reaching out to both friends and strangers to tell them we care.
 
As the poet W.H Auden summed it up “We must love one another or die.” In recognising that we all have the capacity to feel lonely at certain times in our lives, we can realise that we’re not on our own – and we can develop greater empathy and awareness when we see its effect on others.
 
Together, we’re stronger – so when we reach out ourselves, and when we support those who need more love and intimacy in their lives, we can all start to experience loneliness a little bit less, and love, care and belonging a little bit more.
 
In love and light,
 
Taranga