First Chakra Secrets: Stress Relief, Stress Incontinence, and Squatting like a Little Kid
Don’t you love how an unlikely conversation can be enlightening? While chatting with 4 acquaintances outside a bookstore—a happenstance meeting—the conversation turned from spirituality to Law of Attraction to … shhhhhh… urinary incontinence in women and occasionally in children. I guess I’m lucky that it hasn’t really been a problem for me, except for times of extreme illness, like when I was 6 and 7 months pregnant with bronchitis and the docs urged me not to take any medication because I kept going into labor. Four random women showed me that losing urine is a much more widespread problem than I’d imagined—but I also learned a technique to keep my own self healthy and strong, as well as relieve stress. It’s all aboutthe first chakra, that energy center at the base of the spine.
One of the women, a 50-year-old athlete who was complaining about having to give up daily running because she had begun to wet herself on the last half mile home, explained why she had to cut the visit with us short. She was distraught and seriously considering surgery. She’d never had children, never suffered from UTI’s, did probably 200 Kegels a day while waiting for traffic lights to turn green. “It’s not fair that I’m in such great shape and have this problem,” she whined. “I guess I’m just getting old.” That concerned me a little because I’m a Kegel champ myself.
“I don’t know what my excuse is, then,” added the 25-year-old in the group. “Ever since my second baby last year, I don’t go anywhere without wearing a pad. If I sneeze, heaven help me. And you better believe that if you pee on yourself, a 3-year-old will announce it to the world.”
The third woman in the group, who is probably about 38 and in better than average shape, agreed that she had the same problem, but only when she sneezed, had a coughing spasm, or did jumping jacks as part of her lunch-hour cardio meet-up at the gym. Her 10-year-old daughter, however, was still wetting the bed, particularly when she was stressed.
That’s when the remaining woman in our group, a 45-year-old yoga instructor who is as limber now as I was at the age of 5, let us in on a little secret. She strengthens the bottom of the pelvic area with a nice balance of a few Kegels a day and a few squats a day. She does them as a yoga pose known as a Prayer Squat, which she describes as being similar to when we were all itty bitty children and instead of sitting on the ground, we just squatted to talk or play with toys (or in my case, to hide under the table with the chocolate icing leftovers in the cake mixing bowl). She explained that this simple squatting technique that is usually deemed too unlady-like among American women is a great way to stretch out the leg muscles and get the pelvis in line so the incontinence problems lessen or disappear. She also recommends it for pregnant women in preparation for childbirth.
A little bell went off in my head as she was speaking. I kept remembering my physical therapist for my knee injury in 2004 and how she used to torture me by making me do squats and hamstring stretches. Strong glutes relieved the pressure on my knees and, within 6 weeks, my knees had realigned and even my back started feeling great. Tight muscles were no longer pulling on my knee caps. Funny. I didn’t do squats for a long time because they made my knee injury hurt too much, but once the squats built up and stretched muscles I hadn’t been using, the knee problem got significantly better. (I added lots of leg extensions, too, which gave me great legs.)
After this conversation outside the bookstore, I did a little online research and found several good articles that discuss the biomechanics of squatting , such as some really fascinating ones at KatySays.com.
But the yoga teacher had another tip that goes beyond stress incontinence for new moms, menopausal women, and bedwetting children. She recommended making that First Chakra connection during a squat, preferably alone and naked. She recommended de-stressing ourselves by completely relaxing the bottom of the pelvis, almost to the point of urinating, while in a squatting position by squeezing in a single Kegel and then letting it relax all the way. We hold so much of our survival instinct and the stress of it at the base of our spine and in our pelvic floor that it can be tremendously relaxing to let go to that point.
We don’t have to hold on so tightly to Life, she said, but instead, just let ourselves go. What better place to relax and let go of stress than in the First Chakra?