Do you do pelvic floor exercises? Is your pelvic floor tight and trained? Do you even know how to find out or why it’s important?
Our pelvic floors are often talked about, with most of us having heard some commentary on it before becoming adults. Yet most of us only know of it very loosely, and in the context of women. Improving your pelvic floor muscles is seen as a female activity, and as such, a lot of content, advice, and products have been created in order to help only women achieve desired results.
The thing is, for some of us, we’re not really sure what those desired results are. We’re told we need to improve this, tighten this, make sure we can do this, this, oh and this, but we’re not always informed of exactly why that is. It’s one thing to say we need stronger pelvic floors, it’s another entirely to know why.
Since I was a teenager, I’ve understood a strong pelvic floor as something needed in order to not sneeze accompanied by accidentally weeing yourself. Nobody who hasn’t had a baby should be doing that — right?
The thing is, I’ve sneezed and weed myself quite a few times, and I’ve not had a baby, nor am I over the age of 50, so what gives? Personally, I believe it’s nothing more than a poorly timed bodily function when I’m desperate for the toilet, however, some would say my pelvic floor needs improving on.
What is Our Pelvic Floor?
Before we have any hope of better understanding how useful having a strong pelvic floor is, we need to actually know what it is. Quite simply, our pelvic floors are the muscles that support the pelvic region of our bodies; they’re stretched out under our bladder, bowels, and uterus if you have one.
This layer of muscles support the organs in that area, with the way our muscles are connected to openings/exits like the bladder and bowel thus allowing us to control when we go to the toilet. As you’ll know from experience, under normal circumstances, we’re able to control our urge to go to the bathroom even when we need to, until there’s an opportune moment to relieve ourselves.
These muscles are designed to be firm yet flexible in order to accommodate our bodily functions on a daily basis. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean that we don’t run into issues should pelvic floor muscles become weakened or damaged, which can happen for a multitude of reasons, and reasons not just exclusive to women.
Returning to my earlier joke about my sneezing, your pelvic floor can become weaker due to giving birth, however, it can also become weaker from increased weight gain, straining while going to the toilet, age, and other such variables. The reason pregnancy is the most discussed one is simply because most individuals who give birth experience a weakening in their pelvic floor afterwards, even if they had relatively straight forward labour.
Despite being an issue that affects both men and women, it’s only ever really discussed in sexual health columns with women in mind. Furthermore, when it is discussed, it’s usually with the aim to strengthen the muscles in order to not leak or suffer prolapse, as opposed to being for any sexual health benefits. Yet, there are sexual health perks to having a tightened pelvic floor that we really ought to know about.
Sex and The Pelvic Floor
Without using too much science, we can already appreciate why stronger muscles would be beneficial to our sex lives — everything will likely feel tighter, thus giving better sensations to both parties. Of course, while this idea of tightness is apparently the be all and end all to vaginas (fyi, it’s really not), there’s more to pelvic floors than physical feeling.
Stronger pelvic muscles not only help combat premature ejactulation in those with a penis, but it can also improve the symptoms of erectile dysfunction. These are two rather important and interesting benefits, and yet news outlets have only chosen to focus on the female aspect, specifically how they may feel embarrassed by their lack of sensation.
The reason it can be of benefit to those with erectile issues, is because it helps improve blood flow while also improving muscle strength. This in turn allows more blood to circulate to the penis when becoming aroused. In fact, exercising this part of the body can have such marked improvement that it can eliminate impotence in some individuals entirely. An international study of men revealed that 40% of them no longer suffered from ED (erectile dysfunction) after performing pelvic floor exercises for six months, while just over 35% had improved their symptoms.
Kegels and How To Do Them
I’ve mentioned pelvic exercises a lot, but what I’ve not done is refer to them as kegels, which is what such exercises are commonly referred as. You’ve likely heard of the term before, but it’s also possible that you don’t know anything about them.
Most of us know that some kind of squeezing sensation is meant to be felt when we do kegels, thus allowing for better muscle control, however, that’s where the comprehension of the subject matter ends. The issue with this simplified understanding, is that it can lead to poor form during these exercises, which can eventually lead to increased weakness of the pelvic muscles.
To avoid potentially exacerbating an already existing issue, it helps to know what muscles you’re meant to be working. If you want to find said muscles, try to stop your urine stream mid-flow the next time you go to the toilet, once you do this, you’ll know where these muscles sit in your body and hold it feels to flex them. Now that you’ve got that out of the way, you can practice on maintaining good form.
According to the Mayo Clinic, and other such healthcare brands, it’s important not to bear down when doing kegels but to imagine you’re holding something in place. The favourite visual that’s often put out there is a marble. Even though most of us have never tried to pick up a marble with our vaginas, the idea is to imagine yourself trying to by only using your pelvic floor muscles. This means no clenches of your bum or thighs at any time.
If you’re able to grasp that imaginary marble firmly, the next step is to hold that clenching reflex for several seconds on and off throughout the day by doing reps. Be warned, however, that kegels are not to be done when urinating, as they can make it harder to empty your bladder. Seriously, there’s a lot you can do wrong by accident when it comes to these exercises, and yet it’s said to be so simple!
Kegels and Yoni Eggs
Keeping in mind the marble and lifting it, the purpose of a yoni egg is to merely give you a physical object to hold onto instead of a fictional one.
The idea of inserting an object in our vaginas is not going to be a new one, nor one many of us haven’t done. However, what may be new for us is that we’re placing a rounded, gemstone object of some kind rather than something phallic looking, hence the term eggs.
Yoni eggs, also known as jade eggs, are said to be ancient techniques, only brought to the fore thanks to the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, who championed them a couple of years back. She threw her weight behind backing them and the internet became rampant for them.
Of course, just because a celebrity mentions it doesn’t mean it works, and given the amount of interesting sexual health products Paltrow markets (like vagina scented candles), it’s always wise to approach such news with a certain level of skepticism. Funnily enough, however, that candle is still available to purchase, while her post about yoni eggs has since been removed…
Regardless of whether Paltrow believes in the power of yoni eggs is immaterial at this point, for as far as yoni egg supporters are concerned, these crystals have healing properties far beyond insertion and strengthening muscles.
Spiritual and Physical Healing
To understand the gravity of spiritual healing from yoni eggs, we must first understand the proposed healing properties of gemstones/crystals in general. For centuries, gemstones have been deemed as vessels to store energy, energy which can be transferred to us in order to relieve ailments and woes, e.g. money problems, low moods, etc.
If we keep that notion in mind, it then makes sense that these yoni eggs are crafted by using gemstones. After all, the word “yoni” is said to translate into “sacred space”, and so if you connect that with the powerful energy of crystals, an empowering tool for sexual health and wellbeing is being crafted that goes far beyond the physical.
This is certainly what’s claimed by those who sell yoni eggs. Many of them not only believe that your pelvic region will be strengthened, but that you’ll also be able to renew the energy of your womb, alongside dealing with stored sexual trauma. Wow, that’s a lot for one little egg to do!
For some users, this may well be the case, who am I to say otherwise? However, given that these apparent benefits are based on beliefs and not science, it’s impossible to officially test and prove them, and therefore we need to remain cautious to such claims.
Exclusive Language and Beliefs
In addition to the questionable benefits that such products might have, there’s also the issue of exclusion that yoni eggs inherently introduce.
Nearly every advertisement refers to female sexual health, empowering and reigniting your feminine power, and other such commercialised uses of feminism. Not only are they perverting what feminism is about, but they’re also disregarding people with vaginas who aren’t female, and those who do identity as female, but don’t feel feminine. Just take a lot at what the owner of the brand Gemstone Yoni says when describing the benefits of their products. “[...] and help one connect to themselves and feminine energy.”
There are many problems with this commentary, but one of the main ones I find is that these products are less about sexual welfare and more about spiritual welfare. Although the two are connected, they’re not one and the same. On top of this, you then have that fallacy of yoni eggs deriving from ancient cultures, which has since been disproven.
According to Dr. Renjie Chang, no historical records from medicine in ancient eastern societies that mention yoni eggs or similar objects. In fact, according to the findings of a 2019 study of Chinese artefacts, no evidence was found that anything along these lines were used or existed, which adds validity to the claims that this is little more than a marketing ploy. Of course, there are many who disagree with this, and so there are evidently two defined extremes to the yoni egg debate.
Proven Physical Benefits — Are There Any?
It would seem that the answer is no. Most healthcare professionals are in agreement that yoni eggs fail to achieve what they set out to do, and that they can cause more harm than good. This is because of how the eggs are being used.
When performing unassisted kegels, aka without an egg, you contract but then relax your muscles, much like any other strengthening exercise. However, when using an egg, your body is forced to contract for a lot longer without any relaxation of those muscles, which in turn puts more strain on your pelvic floor. As a result, you could end up suffering from pelvic floor tension rather than curing your weakened muscles.
Then you also have the placebo effect of such products, which is an outcome of medicine that we all know well; we’re doing something that we think will improve our health and wellbeing, thus creating a sense that it’s done as it promised. Often this can be seen with any sort of medicine, holistic or otherwise, because of our desire to improve on an issue that has been affecting us and our lives.
Yoni Egg Risks
We’ve talked a lot about the topic already, and we haven’t even taken into account what could happen if you use a damaged egg — if you insert something that has a crack or a chip, you could irritate or scratch your vaginal walls. As anyone who has ever caught themselves with the rough edge of an unfiled nail will know, it’s not a pleasant feeling at all.
Following on from this, you also have the fact that prolonged insertion prevents our bodies from secreting the discharge it normally does. Vaginas are self cleaning by design, so if we stuff something up there and don’t remove it for hours at a time, we hinder that ability to clean. And yes, menstrual cups are inserted for up to 12 hours, but they’re made from medical grade silicon rather than semi-porous gemstones. Not forgetting that some people can’t use cups simply because it irritates them due to a reduced flow in discharge, continued insertion/removal, etc.
In reference to the semi-porous material of yoni eggs, it’s worth noting that this makes cleaning them incredibly hard; bacteria can work its way into the material of the product even if you’re a religious toy cleaner. Consequently, this just invites infection into the body, which is a painful discomfort nobody wants to deal with.
Electronic Kegel Devices
Although this article’s main focus is on yoni eggs, it’s vital that we talk about the string of electronic devices and toys that have come about since yoni eggs and kegels exercising became such a talked about topic.
When you visit sex toy shops and/or look at sex toy guides, you’ll now see kegel exercisers listed in among the vibrators and dildos. In fact, some of these exercises combine both kegel and masturbating so that you get a workout that delivers a powerful orgasm at the end of it. Personally, if I’m exercising, the promise of coming by the end of it does make the idea of working out much more appealing.
Joking aside, these electronic devices are designed to help you see real time feedback of the exercises you’re doing, and ultimately whether you’re maintaining proper form. Take the Elvie, for example, this tells you whether you’re contracting your pelvic floor in the correct way, therefore allowing you to correct the issue quickly. What is more, by having that feedback from the device via the accompanying app, you’re then better able to track your progression.
Other devices, such as the YarLap System, have been created to do the work for you, by using electrostimulation to contract your muscles the right way. This not only allows you to take a backseat when it comes to those workouts, but it also gives you peace of mind that your form is always correct.
Both of these devices, and many others, are arguably a much more worthwhile investment than a yoni egg. This is because they’ve been designed to work with your body and how it functions, instead of being created on the shaky foundations of so called ancient medicine and history. That being said, in truth, nobody needs a device to perform kegels, as they can be done merely while you’re sitting at your desk. However, if you need to make sure you’re doing them correctly, such products can and will be of use.
What You and Your Body Needs
If you need help with your pelvic floor, while yoni eggs aren’t the devil’s work and must be avoided at all costs, the most they’re going to do is increase your risk of an infection. Oh, and set you back money you don't really need to spend.
When your muscles need strengthening, and you’re in need of advice far beyond that of a product review, then you need to seek professional assistance from your GP and/or a specialist. These avenues will lead to proven and supported remedies, meaning you’ll end up reaching whatever goal you have in mind. Furthermore, they’re sex/gender inclusive (or at least, they should be).
Looking beyond the physical benefits and to spiritual ones, if you or someone you know is interested in yoni eggs due to sexual trauma and/or worries, that’s a topic that also needs addressing in a professional setting as well. Gemstones, while comforting for many, can’t replace the help of a therapist and workshops designed to help you overcome your issues.
Body Empowerment and Yoni Eggs
Although yoni eggs come with a list of potential problems we might not have been aware of before, one thing they have indirectly done is make us more body positive. It’s the same with period positivity connected to the moon cycle, and other such spiritually led beliefs. Although there’s not much fact/science to back them up, what they offer is a means of empowering yourself by reconnecting with your body.
If we remove the overtly female focused marketing and content that such communities use and look at how these products have sparked conversations not normally had in the open, then there are benefits to the yoni egg. They’re not the benefits we were looking for, but they are there, and they can be built upon.
By looking at our sexual health and exploring what our body does and how it does it, we’re able to appreciate ourselves in ways we might not be able to any other time. It’s similar to how period cups have given a lot of individuals a great sense of empowerment in themselves as a person, removed from their sex and/or perceived gender.
And while there’s still many pelvic floor guides that peddle sexist viewpoints, designed to focus on female blame and exclude men entirely, there’s many others who encourage us to make our sexual health a primary focus.
Pelvic floors aren’t gender specific. They’re not only important after pregnancy, and you don’t need a product to do them. What is more, while seeking to improve your sexual health is commendable and important, believing that a product is a cure-all is dangerous and can lead to trouble. Think of these products as you would an antidepressant: they may help, but they don’t remove the problem entirely.