This article was originally published on February 19, 2016.
If you're like most women, you probably think of Kegel exercises as something you should be doing, but realistically never will. After all, it's a little weird! Are you really supposed to spend minutes a day squeezing and releasing, hoping it's benefiting you in some intangible way you're not quite sure about? Unless you've given birth and a doctor told you to do it, it all feels vague, boring, and not a priority.
Allow me to change your mind. As it turns out, a healthy pelvic floor (a.k.a. the layer of muscles, nerves, and connective tissues that supports your abdominal organs) is kind of a secret weapon that can improve a surprising number of things in your life, according to Michelle Weber, a New York City-based mind-body personal trainer who specializes in pelvic-floor health.
"It really is connected to almost every part of life — to energy, strength and stamina, digestion, and alertness," Weber says. A healthy and stable "inner core" also helps ensure that any work you're doing in the gym on your outer core — as in, the ab muscles you might be able to see in the mirror — is even more effective. Plus, if you are on the baby train, Kegel work could even potentially make childbirth go more smoothly by helping you learn to release tension, not to mention helping stave off incontinence and prolapse after you deliver.
If that's not enough, how about this: A toned pelvic floor makes penetrative sex even more amazing. "When the pelvic floor is 'alert,' it lifts our spines up out of our pelvis a bit. When that happens, the walls of the vagina cinch like one of those Chinese finger traps and it's much more pleasurable for both people," Weber says. No matter what kind of sex you're having, the healthier connection between the spine and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis into the brain (one potential result of a well-conditioned pelvic floor) means that the brain's pleasure centers get even more activated through the reduction of stress, Weber says.
All this is to say, as unsexy as it might sound, the pelvic floor really is one of the most incredible parts of your body — and getting it in shape is easier than you might expect. Yes, the focus of the work is Kegel exercises, but I swear it's more fun than you think. One thing that can really help is visualizations, i.e., mental images that help guide the invisible work you're doing in your pelvis so you're not just randomly squeezing, releasing, and hoping for the best. That's why I teamed up with Weber to dream up some offbeat animations that will drive home exactly how it's done. They're all part of a 30-day challenge that will help you gradually work up to advanced pelvic floor exercises and see for yourself how awesome it feels to build a healthy foundation.
While we're arguably more in control of and confident about our sexuality than ever, there's still so much we don't know about female arousal. So this month, we're exploring everything you want and need to know about how women get turned on now. Check out more here.
Kegel Challenge, 30 Days Of Sex Pelvic Floor Exercises