How can yoga help with a bladder issue?
Can yoga poses really help with interstitial cystitis?
Interstitial cystitis, also known as painful bladder syndrome, is a condition that can be found in both women and men. Common symptoms of interstitial cystitis (IC) include urinary frequency, a constant urge to urinate, bladder pain, pelvic pain, and pain with sex.
IC is often related to an issue with the bladder lining, but even when the bladder lining is affected, this tends to be only part of the cause of the symptoms associated with IC.
Many times other factors impact symptoms such as the pelvic floor muscles, diet, and stress, and yoga can definitely help with stress and your muscles. Yogis also tend to be healthy eaters and conscious of what foods make them feel good, so you can say that yoga indirectly helps with your diet as well 🙂
Yoga is also amazing at improving your body awareness and teaches you that you probably have more control over your physical body than you think.
What happens to the pelvic floor with interstitial cystitis
With interstitial cystitis, the pelvic floor muscles tend to be tight. The pelvic floor muscles support the bladder and there are also specific pelvic muscles that have control over the urethra. The urethra is the small tube exiting the bladder that urine passes through to exit the body. These muscles can become tight due to the fact that the most common symptom with IC is feeling a constant or frequent urge to urinate.
When anyone feels a strong urge to urinate regardless of having IC, the pelvic floor muscles should contract and tighten in order to keep the urine in the bladder until you can get to the bathroom. When you’re not dealing with any bladder issues, this probably doesn’t happen often enough to lead to continued tightness of the pelvic muscles.
With IC, since many experience a constant or frequent urge to urinate, the pelvic floor muscles tighten up in response to this sensation even though the bladder may not be full and may not actually need to empty at that moment. So if these muscles are frequently contracting due to this bladder sensation, over time they get used to being in this tightened state and they may now stay there. Tight pelvic floor muscles end up putting extra pressure on the urethra and in turn probably end up making symptoms worse.
Tight pelvic floor muscles could then also cause pelvic pain or pain with sex.
The pelvic floor muscles also sometimes tighten up in response to pain related to the bladder, as these are the muscles in this area. This doesn’t just happen in the pelvis; anytime we have pain in a specific area of the body, the muscles in that area tend to tighten up in response. They think they are helping, which they may be helping protect the painful area in the short term, but in the long term they end up feeding into the issue.
This outline of what is happening is not to scare you, it’s just to help you understand how the muscles play a role in how you are feeling. And the good news is, you can relax these muscles with some work! Stretching, relaxation techniques, yoga, and pelvic floor physical therapy all can help relax these muscles.
How can yoga help?
Yoga can not only help stretch these muscles and help teach you how to relax these muscles, it can also help teach you how to avoid getting into this tightened state in the first place.
It does this through improving your body awareness and through helping you be in a more overall relaxed state throughout your life.
We are going to review what types of yoga poses can be helpful for IC.
These types of poses can be really effective and helpful in managing your symptoms. With that being said, to really relieve symptoms long term and to take control over your bladder, you really need to dive deeper into a yoga practice with things such as meditation, breath-work, and learning how to incorporate yoga into your everyday life. I have lots of resources on my website that can help you on this journey. Coming soon, I will be releasing an in depth personalized program for those who are ready to dive deep into this practice to heal. I’m so excited and I’ll keep you guys posted on this.
So what types of yoga poses can help IC?
For the reasons just discussed, the first type of yoga poses that can help with interstitial cystitis symptoms are poses that stretch and relax the pelvic floor muscles.
Not only can you stretch the pelvic floor muscle with certain yoga poses, these type of poses also are helpful at improving your body awareness in relation to these muscles. This can be super helpful in managing your symptoms throughout the day.
Another area of the body that tends to become tight in those dealing with IC is the lower abdomen. Think about where the bladder is located. It’s very very low in the abdomen. Also think about the position your body goes into when you have a strong urge to urinate or when your bladder is painful. You probably crunch up and tighten through the abdomen. Your body does this as a protective mechanism but if this happens frequently enough, this area can become tight over time.
Yoga poses that work on lengthening and stretching the abdomen can be extremely helpful at alleviating IC symptoms.
Lastly, any yoga poses where you feel truly relaxed will be helpful. These types of poses help you let go and heal.
What if I haven't been officially diagnosed with IC?
Even if you don’t have IC, yoga can still be helpful in dealing with many other bladder issues. Of course if you have issues with your bladder, always seek care from your medical doctor to ensure nothing medical is going on. If you are cleared medically, yoga can be really helpful.
Even if you have all the symptoms listed here, it doesn’t mean you definitely have IC. I know that sometimes this diagnosis is thrown out there as a “maybe” and I know this can be stressful for people.
I also know that when you are dealing with something that hasn’t been given a specific name, it can feel really frustrating. While it’s important to be thoroughly examined medically to rule out any serious issues, sometimes it can be really healing and freeing to let go of needing to have a specific name for something. I know this is easier said than done and it won’t happen overnight, but it’s something to think about.
For those diagnosed with IC, letting go of attachments to “how you’re supposed to be or feel” with this diagnosis and letting go of feeling like IC is your identity can also be really healing. Your IC symptoms are part of your journey and may shape your path but they don’t define you.
These were just some extra thoughts in my mind that I hope help you on your healing journey. Feel free to leave any comments below and remember to download your free PDF guide on yoga poses for IC!
Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2019, September 14). Interstitial cystitis. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved September 10, 2021, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/interstitial-cystitis/symptoms-causes/syc-20354357.
Staff, F. E. (2020, September 17). Interstitial cystitis. familydoctor.org. Retrieved September 10, 2021, from https://familydoctor.org/condition/interstitial-cystitis/.
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