When teaching a recent workshop I shared my personal experience with Stage 2 Prolapse – from its discovery to its treatment to its resolution – and it was brought to my attention that I should add this to my website.
Here it is… and though it certainly seems a lot longer in writing, feel free to skim through it and take from it what you like. As a personal trainer who specialized in pre/post natal training and working with the older adult, pelvic floor health was commonly mentioned. At the time, I was unaware of the varying stages of incontinence, nor did I know that 40-50% of women in their life time would suffer from some form of pelvic floor dysfunction. ‘Pelvic Floor dysfunction’ was becoming a new term in my vocabulary, and it meant far more than just incontinence!!
How was it that at age 40 I was just learning about prolapse issues?
The Pfilates certification course (taught and created by Bruce Crawford, urogynecologist in the US) had opened my eyes to a part of women’s health that seems to be kept very secret. It was after taking the Pfilates course that I decided all my clients should see a pelvic floor physiotherapist. This way, when I was helping them to strengthen the rest of their bodies, we had a measure of what level of strength their ‘floor’ had, and could determine if it was able to withstand the load and demand of daily living as well as the exercises they were doing in the gym. When talking to moms in the playground and schoolyard where my kids attended I could not believe the number of women who were confessing on the activities they could not longer do because they leaked or peed. Shocked by the young ages of the women to whom I was talking, it became my mission to spread the word about pelvic floor health and let women know that it was not a normal part of aging or motherhood and that you could prevent or recover from incontinence.
It was around this time I was on the Marilyn Denis show talking about and demonstrating the Pfilates program. I began to tell almost every woman I met that it was in their best interest to see a Pelvic floor physiotherapist as part of an annual exam and explained that most doctors do not check for prolapse or pelvic floor tone or lack thereof. In fact it seems many doctors don’t even mention signs of it unless you ask, and then the message seems to be” surgery, normal part of aging or unless it bothers you…or if it is hard to live with….”
I decided (even though I did not think I was showing signs of PF weakness) that I should also go and see a pelvic floor physio. At least that way if a client asked I could help explain what to expect from a visit (and I wanted to practice what I preached!).
This is where my story takes a very personal turn and I began to get a real understanding of the emotional toll pelvic floor dysfunction can exact. It was at my PF physiotherapy visit that I was told that I had stage 2 cystocele (prolapse of the bladder). Interestingly enough the symptoms of prolapse can vary greatly from one woman to the next. I did not suffer from pelvic pain, or if I had, it was maybe once or twice and I had assumed it was from working out a bit too hard the day before. One woman could have a stage 2 and not really know it while another could be in a great deal of pain or discomfort. (As it turns out, I did have what turned out to be an undiagnosed symptom of pelvic floor dysfunction, but thought was unrelated until recently – I will describe at the end of this page…)
Well I freaked out!! I could not believe it! All the pelvic floor exercises I had done had not been as effective as I thought! But how could they have been when it was also at this appointment where I found out I had scar tissue up the left side of my vagina (how the heck would I have ever known that if the PF physio had not seen it !). Scar tissue does not move the same way healthy tissue does so all that time the pelvic floor work I had done was not as effective as it could have been. Yet another great reason to see a PF physio so you know what is going on down/up there! I freaked out because during my courses I had seen photos of stage 4 prolapses and desperately wanted to prevent that from happening! I won’t lie to you, I cried a lot! I became so hyper-aware of my pelvic floor and what I was feeling, all the time! I realized that I had better stay focused on what was going on around me or I was going to get hit by a car! In fact I remember having over-poured my tea twice as a result of the deep thought and anxiety from the whole issue I was now facing! My kids (age 11 and 6 at that time) were driving me nuts as I could not even think straight anymore! My husband was on a business trip so I didn’t have him to talk to about it and I had reserved thoughts about telling him too – I did not want this to change the intimacy of our marriage.
Keira Werthrup Brown (founder of Mom’s living with prolapse) was a great person to talk to as she offered lots of support and the sympathy I was looking for. Sherrie Palm was also great and was very diligent at returning my panic-laden and freaked-out emails and questions. 2 people I really needed when my husband was a way but also the female support I needed. It was within the first week or so of finding out about my prolapse that a friend since hight school, Kim Vopni had mentioned the HYPOPRESSIVE Method that she had seen online.
WELL LET ME TELL YOU! I watched and watched and examined those Spanish youtube videos trying desperately to emulate what I saw, in spite of not knowing a word of Spanish… I finally began to connect with the breath and figured out a couple of the poses to the best of my ability at the time – I was hooked! I could not believe the immediate difference it had on my pelvic floor! I would just do one or two of the poses and my pelvic floor felt noticeably changed. I experienced a lifted feeling, and my abdominal muscles felt just toned and flat unlike the hard and tight feeling I got with traditional exercises – this was different – my stomach just resting flat! I no longer needed to pull my belly button in (which I later learned was a disservice I had been doing to my core and pelvic floor for years!).
After a week or two of my HYPOPRESSIVE Method self-experiment I returned to the physio who was shocked to see that my stage 2 had been reduced to a stage 1!!! It was after that visit that I became determined to find out exactly where and by whom I could learn this method so I could become certified and teach it to others but also to perfect it for myself.
KAISA TUOMINEN from BANYOLES SPAIN was the only certified Master Trainer in the HYPOPRESSIVE Method that could speak and teach in English. Connecting with Kaisa became a mission of mine in hopes she would be willing to teach me the fundamental certification if I went to see her in Spain. I am forever grateful for her dedication and willingness to teach me privately the fundamentals course in Banyoles Spain in the summer of 2012 where I became the first Canadian certified in the HYPOPRESSIVE Method!
The HYPOPRESSIVE Method course gave me a new insight to the true meaning of ‘core reprogramming’. While working with Kaisa I had discovered the hardest workout I had ever done, and yet I was merely on the spot, slowly moving through static postures and poses – it would have been easier for me to do my hills and stair run – but I was loving it and how I felt afterwards. The HYPOPRESSIVE course was enlightening to say the least!learning How is it that after 20 years in the fitness industry I was such ground breaking information! I had a long journey back home with lots of great new information but also with a new plan of action for my own training for the next 4 weeks. This new plan was going to take a lot of self-convincing. I had reached the point in the HYPOPRESSIVE Method known as the ‘intensive phase’ where I needed to temporarily put my running and strength training aside for 4 weeks and commit to daily routine of 20 min of Hypos. UGH!! I love working out and yet how could I ask a client to follow this plan if I couldn’t commit to it myself? In my mind I decided the best approach for me to embrace was to think of my PF issue as an injury and like any other injury I should be able to rest while it healed. Yes, yes I know this was so much more because with an injury there is always something strength related you could do.. I rode the bike in the basement to maintain my own sanity and the sanity of my family who would have to live with me if I did not train AT ALL. My bike rides were steady but not too intense but at least I got to sweat a bit.
The reason to not do any HYPERpresive exercise (to cause pressure) was to allow the HYPOpresive method to take over and truly REPROGRAM MY CORE (pelvic floor, diaphragm,abdominal muscles and back the whole unit!)
It was worth it! After the intensive phase I went to visit my PF physio to assess my progress. The PF physio was blown away! My prolapse had disappeared!! There was no signs of it, in fact my PF resting tone had also normalized and improved! I had fallen in love with this new form of core training so much so that for me it is now a daily routine/ritual. I had also reached a point where I could start to gradually reintroduce the strength training and running as I would have, after having allowed my injury to heal. The HYPOPRESSIVE were now part of my new maintenance/strengthening program. I had to find out how and where I could get certified in the next level. So I traveled to the UK where they were offering the advanced training certification.
I LOVE IT!! and anyone who has heard me speak can attest to the passion I have for this type of training.
What is great about the Advanced HYPOPRESSIVE Program is that it adds a whole new level of intensity by adding dynamic movement to the correct breathing technique. This intense workout was allowing me to challenge myself in a way I had never done before, and yet was completely pelvic floor friendly.
Continuing on my mission to help and educate women about pelvic floor dysfunction I was allowed the opportunity to go on the Dr. Marla and Friends with a client of mine, introducing the HYPOPRESSIVE Method to a national audience, all the while spreading the word about pelvic floor health As a runner I also felt it important to do an article in the Running Room Magazine and was so happy they too felt it was an important topic to publish. Any high-impact exercise should definitely be balanced with proper pelvic floor strengthening. I recently traveled to Eastern Canada (Nov 2013) where I taught HYPOPRESSIVE Workshops and Core Awareness workshops. Helping women to recognize symptoms that are often overlooked or not recognized as signs of potential pelvic floor dysfunctions confirms once again the lack of education we women have, and are getting with regards to the importance of pelvic floor health. The Expert certification course I had the pleasure of taking in Spain this December (2013) was amazing and has given me an even more intense program to perfect after having worked on the advanced level for the past year, and an even deeper understanding of the theory and studies behind the method.
About my undiagnosed pelvic floor disorder symptom... I had been suffering chronic piriformis pain in my right butt cheek that I had been able to manage, but was a constant bother and had me rolling on a ball, roller or just wanting to dig my thumb or fist into the glute muscle. Sitting in a car for any length of time was uncomfortable. I had seen numerous physios, chiropractors and acupuncturists and tried a huge variety of stretch, strength, rest techniques and nothing was able to completely eliminate this issue since the birth of my now 13 year-old. Not one person ever mentioned the possibility of pelvic floor weakness and yet it was my only symptom (at the time I had no clue!). I can only now recognize it as a symptom of my pelvic floor disorder because I no longer suffer from it since doing the HYPOPRESSIVE and regaining my pelvic floor tone. My piriformis is not desperately hanging on and compensating for the work my pelvic floor was not able to manage due to its weakness. I do think it is important that I always end this personal story by saying that everyone will have their own personal adventure/story, and that there are other methods that have proven effective for people.
The HYPOPRESSIVE Method happens to be a major turning point in my life and it has proven to be the most effective rehabilitation tool for me, as well as many I have worked with. It is important to do the research, see a pelvic floor physiotherapist and find the method that works best for you. You may need to experiment with treatments and methods to find one that works for you, but based on my personal experience, it is truly worth the effort.
(since writing this story I have returned to Spain and become Canada’s Master Trainer and International course instructor for HYPOPRESSIVE EXERCISE!! and am loving every minute of it!!!!)