To Clench Or Not To Clench
Is it all getting a bit too PC these days…?
I’m referring – of course – to the pubococcygeus muscle, or PC muscle for short. Also known as the Pelvic Floor.
Most erotic teachers and educators advocate use of this muscle as an essential part of an orgasmic repertoire. But does it have downsides?
A strong pelvic floor gives proper control over bladder and bowels, helps stabilise the hip joints… and improves sexual performance and orgasm.
In some traditions, it’s identified with the root chakra—connected to primary instincts such health, safety and security. It’s where we hold many emotional responses, including fight or flight reactions. You know that feeling like the pit of your stomach turns over when something bad happens? That’s your pelvic floor muscle engaging.
Bladder control…safety…sex… these are all pretty crucial things, and because of this the PC muscle has become the focus of all sorts of attention to try and improve strength.
Pelvic floor exercises, also known as Kegels, are advocated by post-natal and Tantra sources alike as a failsafe way to improve performance – be it in the bathroom or the bedroom.
Kegels consist of repeatedly contracting and relaxing the PC muscles multiple times, for several minutes at a time. If you’ve not done one before try clenching your muscles like you’re stopping a pee mid-flow – contract, pull up, and hold, but not with your stomach or buttock muscles.
In erotic terms these squeezes often form a central part of techniques for moving sexual energy around the body – Taoist and Tantric practices rely on them to increase orgasmic pleasure.
But a word of caution:
As Lauren Roxburgh (a fascia and structural integrative specialist) points out:
“Imagine flexing your bicep constantly and never fully letting go and you get the idea: After a while, this would cause your arm to lose flexibility, strength, and the ability to relax”.
For anyone who already has a tight pelvic floor (and it’s surprising how many of us actually do, as a result of our stressful lifestyles), contracting these muscles regularly can actually aggravate the tension.
Of course there can be health benefits to strengthening the PC muscle, but the problem lies with the idea that a tight muscle equals a strong muscle. What gets tightened also needs to be stretched out again in order to provide strength not just tightness. Bio-mechanic movement therapist, Katy Bowman notes:
“In doing my research on the physics of the pelvis, and how the pelvic floor works, it became clear that while the pelvic floor’s problem was weakness, it was weakness that is the result of too much tension – not weakness that comes from flopping around”.
She advocates squats as a natural counterbalance for Kegels (watch the science here, it’s fascinating!), lengthening the glutes and encouraging the PC muscle away from hyper-tension.
I know from my own experience that prolonged use of Kegels can actually cause problems. It’s worth remembering there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach. So, squatting or squeezing, keep listening to your body, and make sure you don’t end up in a tight spot!
24 May, Forest Row, East Sussex. With Michael Dresser & Sarah Davies. What does consent look and feel like on a dancefloor? A 1-day exploration for those who love to dance and are interested in the dynamics that can arise when we dance in a group with people.
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