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Medical Study

Stanford Medical Study

We are looking for female volunteers to take part in an innovative study which examines the activity of the Pelvic Floor Muscles (PFM) using a intra-vaginal sensor. From these studies we hope to gain greater understanding

about the function of the PFM, and specifically how they can be trained to help to control stress urinary incontinence (SUI). We are seeking volunteers who do, and those that do not, have a history of SUI . Volunteers can be of any age.

  • Volunteers will be required to attend the VA Hospital Palo Alto or Stanford University Medical Hospital by appointment arranged individually
  • There will be a one time visit for approximately 1 hour
  • Volunteers will be paid $100 but they need to have a social security number

If you want to take part, contact Ruth Lovegrove:

Phone: (650) 283 7126 Email: ruth2 at

Are You Using your Mula Bandha Correctly?

You may know the importance in many yoga practices to engage your bandhas, particularly the mula bandha (the equivalent of the Pelvic Floor Muscles – PFM ) and uddiyana bandha (involves raising the Diaphragm and keeping it immobile) in order to prevent the dissipation of and direct the flow of prana in the body. But did you know that the PFM have other functions such as contributing to spinal stability, pelvic organ support, urinary and faecal continence and sexual function and performance. What a great group of muscles to get and keep working well!

How do you know that you are contracting the PFM effectively when over 30% of the female population contracts incorrectly at their first attempt? And even though we do not have the statistics for men, would it be unrealistic to suggest that the statistics would be worse! Or am I just biased?

Joking aside, at Stanford we are interested in finding out as much as we possibly can about how the PFM and abdominal muscles work so that we can also help to understand why and how they don’t work when there is a problem. Since we think that the yoga community is more aware of their pelvic floor muscles than the general population, we would be delighted if you would volunteer to be part of this innovative study. Unfortunately, at this time, its women only. But boys, watch this space.

Guidelines for activating the PFM

In the meantime, these are the guidelines we use to assist people to activate their PFM:

  • Imagine your PFM as a sling that attaches from your tail bone at the back (sacrum and coccyx) to your pubic bone at the front
  • Now take a breathe in, and as you breathe out, gently squeeze the muscles around your back passage, as if you were trying to prevent wind (gas/flatulence) escaping
  • Bring this feeling forward (remembering the muscular sling) towards your pubic bone as if you were trying to stop yourself from urinating (having a pee)
  • Keep holding this contraction as you imagine that you are on the ground floor of an elevator, you want to lift your PFM as if you were going to the 1st, then 2nd 3rd etc floor
  • Keep breathing as normally as you can, whilst holding onto your PFM. Aim to hold for 10 seconds, before releasing your PFM.
  • Repeat up to 10 times, breathing normally.
  • Remember to release all the way back to the ground floor, as holding on too much, may be as much of a problem as not being able to hold onto them at all

Also, you may have noticed that your abdominal muscles were also engaged as you pulled in your PFM. This is perfectly normal (we think), as long as you do not tilt your pelvis or hold your breathe as you do so.

As I said earlier, many people do not activate their PFM correctly when first asked to do so. Without being examined, we cannot tell for sure whether you’ve got it “right”.  Having said that, below are some top tips to make sure that you are not activating too much of the incorrect muscle groups:

  • Many people bear or push down when they try to activate their PFM, as if they were straining to go to the toilet. Remember to squeeze and lift, as described above, rather than pushing down
  • Keep your buttock cheeks (bottom muscles/butt), inner thigh, and leg muscles relaxed
  • There should be no movement of your spine or pelvis as you engage your PF or abdominal (uddiyanna) muscles.

Finally, if you have noticed that your PFM are not as they used to be, whether due to childbirth, high impact sports such as trampolining, or just increasing age, its a good habit to contract your PFM just before you cough or sneeze, lift anything heavy, or even just bending over, as well as contracting your PFM as described above twice a day.

Ruth Lovegrove, July 2005


Levator is the collective word used for the PFM (Picture reproduced with kind permission from Dr Lennox Hoyte )


                                    This is a Stanford Study