Female urinary incontinence? These Qigong exercises can help!
You feel it. That sudden anxiety to relieve yourself. Panicking, you realize that you don’t have much time before the inevitable happens. And it does. Right there and then. This is the all-too-common experience of those females who suffer from urinary incontinence, which is the inability to control the urinary (pee) function of the body. With over 200 million people affected by incontinence the world over, the vast majority of those who deal with it are women. Women are especially vulnerable to urinary incontinence due to:
- excess weight gain around their midsections
I have an aunt who just celebrated her 61st birthday. Despite being in fairly good health, she too deals with incontinence. She has had a brain aneurism in the past and struggles to loose excess weight. She now has to wear padded undergarments to protect her from a sudden accident. Having incontinence can feel embarrassing, making you withdraw from spending time with coworkers, family, and friends. What happens to our bodies that leads to incontinence? And how can specific Qigong exercises provide relief and help to our bodies?
Why does urinary incontinence occur?
Urinary incontinence in women first starts in the brain. Before you feel the urge to pee, the brain must first send a signal to the muscle in the bladder to contract and expel fluid from it. The bladder is an organ in the body that stores urine and then releases it once it is full. It is a part of the urinary tract, a complex bodily system that includes the kidneys and the ureters.
The brain must also signal what are called sphincters to relax so the fluid being expelled from the bladder can pass through yet another organ, the urethra. (picture). Who knew that there were so many steps in the process of urination? The brain works tirelessly to coordinate this process and therefore can be affected by changes in the brain. Without this process happening in seamless order, we can experience some form of urinary incontinence. There are many types of urinary incontinence that one may experience. They are:
- stress incontinence-due to weakened muscles underneath the bladder, the urine escapes easily once there is pressure caused by sensations such as sneezing, laughing, coughing, etc. For women, often times, the muscles are weakened after going through pregnancy and childbirth.
- urgency incontinence-muscles in the bladder loose function and contract uncontrollably, sending urine out without being able to hold or sustain it in the normal way that it should.
- mixed incontinence-a combination of both stress incontinence and urgency incontinence factors are experienced.
- functional incontinence– this type of incontinence has less to do with the function of the bladder’s muscles, and more to do with not being aware of the need to relieve yourself due to physical disability
- transient incontinence-like the name suggests, this urinary incontinence is experienced in transit, that is, only for a short amount of time. It may be due to a medication that you are taking with the symptoms of incontinence subsiding once you have finished taking the medication.
So now that we know why incontinence occurs in the body, let’s take a look at how Qigong can positively impact the parts of the body that are a cause of incontinence.
How can Qigong positively impact the parts of the body that cause urinary incontinence?
Urinary incontinence mainly stems from two parts of the body: the brain and the urinary tract. These parts of the body must function optimally in order for the body to perform appropriately. The practice of Qigong takes its roots from an understanding of the body based on traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). This dates back thousands of years, however, it still holds relevance till today. The main component of TCM is qi, or the inner energy essence of the body. Qi flows throughout the body along meridians, or channels of energy. When this energy is blocked along the channels, or when there is a lack of this energy in these channels, there will be bodily disfunction and/or disease.
This relates to urinary incontinence by way of the kidney and bladder meridians.
The kidney meridian runs along the inside of the foot, up along the inside of the leg, ending at the upper chest.
The bladder meridian starts at the base of the foot, travels to the back of the legs, through the spine to the brain.
Qigong is useful in clearing these meridians. As Qigong focuses on deep breathing, meditation, and gentle movements, it calms the mind and energizes the body to heal itself. When you have clear and unblocked meridians, you have fluid movement of qi throughout the body, and those parts of the body that need to be revitalized, will be. For example, if the bladder meridian is blocked, by focusing the breath and specific movements to create flow of qi through the bladder meridian, you unblock that meridian. Likewise with the kidney meridian. This practice is also supremely useful for reducing stress and anxiety in the body, which will have a positive effect on blocked energy. It will further allow the release and relaxation of qi throughout the body.
Qigong Exercises with the pelvis and pelvis floor
Here are two forms of Qigong that can be used for urinary incontinence in women. I practice these daily and have also referred them to my aunt who experiences urinary incontinence.
1. First form-Lying on your back
Lie down on a flat ground a pillow or soft cushion to support your back. Your body should feel relaxed and light. Breathe naturally, with gentle lifts of your stomach upon inhales, and a descent of your stomach upon exhales. For a beginner account of breathing for Qigong, please go here. Your arms should be at the sides of your body and your legs should be straight. Close your mouth and feel the tongue touch the upper roof of the inner mouth. Pay attention to the gathering of saliva in the mouth, as it is important for stimulating and circulating the energy within the body. Then, bring your attention to the lower stomach and bring rest and quietness to your mind. Draw a deep breath in through your nose and lift the area where the pelvic muscle is and draw the pelvic muscles inward. Hold the breath for 5-6 seconds, and then release the breath with an exhale. Relax the tongue from the roof of the mouth. Relax the pelvic muscle and the rest of the body. Repeat for 5-10 minutes in the mornings and evenings as it is convenient with your schedule.
2. Second form-Standing
As you are standing normally, with feet paralleled with the shoulders, sink into the knees slightly and keep the back straight. Hands should hang by the sides of the body in a form as though gripping the handles of a motor bike. Once again, touch the tongue to the upper roof of the mouth and feel the building of saliva in the mouth. Create a calm gargle at the back of the throat. Inhale through the nose and lift the pelvic muscles and elevate the hips forward and upwards. Hold for 5-6 seconds. Then, lower the hips, relax the pelvic muscles and exhale the breath. Repeat these steps up to 10 times. Once complete, place the right hand over the left hand on the lower stomach (this would be reversed for males) and focus on the lower stomach. This gathers great energy in what is known as the “second brain”. Once settled, walk with a normal pace for twenty to thirty steps.
Another helpful practice for the bladder and urinary system is the following video. I try to do this one in the mornings and evenings.
As always, please consult with your medical practitioner before attempting any of the aforementioned exercises or taking any of the herbs.
Please feel free to leave a comment, concern, or question in the comment section below on any of the information presented in this post.
~Stay in light and in love~