Male Pelvic Floor: Advanced Massage and Bodywork for Tension, Dysfunction, and Pain

Emotional and Energetic Aspects of the Pelvic Floor

Introduction

Beyond the purely physical realms of anatomy and movement, the pelvic floor plays an important role in our emotional and energetic health.

Muscles in all areas of our bodies, including the pelvic floor, have the potential to be affected by emotional forces. Pleasurable experiences and emotions tend to relax, energize, or expand us while non-pleasurable ones tend to make us tense up, contract, and perhaps depress us. Most of the time these reactions are transient, just as our experiences tend to be, and our muscles will return to a baseline range of function. If, however, the emotional impulse is strong enough or if it is present for a significant length of time, the potential arises for our muscular response to evolve into a chronic pattern which could eventually result in pain and dysfunction. Another factor to consider are the feelings we associate with the pelvic floor, as you will see below.

Our vitality depends on the generation and free flow of energy throughout our bodies. Though relatively new to Western science, this concept has been central to many Eastern practices and philosophies for thousands of years. The pelvic floor plays a fundamental role as both a key energy center and a nexus for many of these lines of energy. Excess tension and contraction in these muscles can result in the flow of energy being blocked or stuck, while significant weakness can result in an impaired ability to conserve energy. Either situation can lead to a decrease in our capacity to generate and maintain vitality.

There are many ways to become aware of, examine, and transform the emotional and energetic aspects of our pelvic floor, among them counseling, psychotherapy, breath work, meditation, martial arts, yoga, and self-directed personal exploration. Pelvic floor massage and bodywork can integrate well with any of these or stand on its own as a useful approach.

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Feelings and Emotions

The pelvic floor, including the genitals and anus, is frequently a taboo subject. Often we are taught that this area of our bodies is dirty or shameful, and embarrassing to discuss. We learn as children that it has something to do with bodily functions and is somehow connected with sex, and when we explore it we can be reprimanded, punished, or made to feel guilty. Sometimes this can result in lifelong patterns of unconscious protection or guarding in this area. Even as adults, our culture has a difficult time talking about it in a straightforward and non-judgemental manner. We sometimes refer to it as "down there", as if using real anatomic terms would be too awkward. "A direct question to a man about what he feels in his pelvis is usually met with embarrassed silence or a change of subject." writes R. Louis Schultz in his book Out in the Open: The Complete Male Pelvis [1].

"I was much more open both physically and emotionally after the pelvis and pelvic floor work we did last time." - J. B.

Aspects of our life's history, including emotions, can affect our pelvic floor even long after the events themselves. Stress can carry elements of fear or anger, for example, and when these translate into muscular tension, the areas affected are more closed off, are less able to feel, and are less able to generate pleasure. Psychotherapist Jack Morin puts it well when he says "All of us have preferred places in our bodies where the fears, hurts, and worries of life are most readily expressed in muscular tension. In these hypersensitive zones old fears and hurts linger and fester..." [2]. Wise and Anderson explain it this way: "...the tendency to tighten the pelvic floor is no accident. It is one of the central ways most individuals with pelvic pain, usually unconsciously, deal with the stresses of life. And yet especially when it arises, pelvic pain is perpetuated in an internal atmosphere of fear, anxiety, dread, resentment, and anger. These feelings are usually subterranean... and are usually invisible to others or even to one's self." [3].

From her article "Posture and the Perineum", Mary Bond writes that "For some people, freedom in the hips evokes a hint of fear or shame. We are so accustomed to protecting and hiding the pelvic floor that releasing it can feel like exposure." [4]. For some men, letting go and feeling open in the pelvic floor can be especially challenging because being "in control" often means holding on, repressing feelings, being uptight, and distancing themselves from their softer, more receptive sides. Ken Dychtwald, in his book Bodymind, writes that "The person who rigidifies his [pelvic floor] in this fashion frequently also suppresses his emotions, with overemphasized intellectual control. ... This is the typical 'tight-ass' person, holding on to all his expressions and feelings." [5]. Morin rightly concludes that contrary to what many men may think, "the ability to relax, to receive, to voluntarily surrender control is a psychological and interpersonal asset, not a loss." [2].

"I had a very powerful reaction to our last session. Afterward I felt very physical and stimulated, and connected to parts I wasn't familiar with. I also had strongly emotional feelings come up. All of it felt connected and good." - D. F.

Here's another perspective through which to ponder the connection between the pelvic floor and our emotions: the muscles that attach to the tailbone (coccyx) in humans are the three main pelvic floor muscles (Pubococcygeus, Iliococcygeus, and Ischiococcygeus) plus some fibers of the Gluteus Maximus. Humans are mammals, as are dogs for example, and these same muscles in dogs control their tail, enabling such actions as wagging, pointing, or pulling the tail between their legs. It is usually easy to tell a dog's emotional state by what its tail is doing. Though humans only have a vestigial tail, is there some evolutionary echo between the actions or state of these muscles and our emotions? Food for thought.

To be sure, the pelvic floor is capable of, and even designed for, experiencing a wide range of positive feelings and sensations. It has the capacity to be strong and robust, yet supple, open, and responsive, fulfilling its important role in the symphony of physical and emotional activities that characterize the interplay between mind and body.Back to top

Energetic Aspects

In numerous esoteric traditions the pelvic floor, including the perineum, is an often significant and sometimes central aspect of their philosophy and practice. Many of these traditions view the pelvic floor as a vital energy center and teach methods of accessing, expanding, and channeling this energy through awareness, intention, and physical contraction and relaxation of the muscles here.

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The Chakras evolved in ancient India and are described as seven energy centers aligned in a vertical column from the pelvis to the head. The first of these is the root, or base chakra, called muladhara (or mooladhara). It is located in the pelvic floor and its central point is in the perineum, at the perineal body. "In the male, the perineal body is the trigger point for mooladhara chakra." states Swami Buddhananda in his book Moola Bandha [6]. Moola bandha is a yogic practice that intentionally engages the perineum and pelvic floor; see my Maintaining a Healthy Pelvic Floor page for more yoga practices that involve the pelvic floor.

"You did something last time that blew open my whole chakra system." - D. C.

The vital energy of kundalini rests in muladhara chakra, ready to awaken and expand up through the six higher chakras. This first chakra is also the place where the three primary nadis converge. Nadis are described as "the invisible web of energy that penetrates and permeates the physical frame" [7].

Charles Breaux states that "In general, the primary function of the root chakra is to translate the life force into the survival needs and activities of the physical organism. The feelings of security and confidence in the physical world instill in us the trust necessary for the positive expression of the root chakra. Without this sense of feeling safe in the body and the physical environment, a deep fear undermines all other levels of consciousness." [8]. He further explains that "In daily life, the first chakra covers these concerns: how we relate to and take care of our physical bodies (nutrition, exercise, and gratification of the senses), how we earn our living and maintain a shelter, our attitude toward money and the quality of our physical environment, how we relate to the sensual world and material possessions, and our ability to trust and feel safe on the physical plane."

"I feel more relaxed and energized in the lower abdomen. You are waking up the dead areas - releasing, opening, and energizing. I always feel altered when I come here. That was wonderful!"
- V. B.

John Cross, a physiotherapist and acupuncturist in the United Kingdom, advocates and teaches treatment programs for medical therapists using acupressure and bodywork modalities to directly work with the chakras. He writes that "the Base chakra (sometimes called the Root chakra) is probably used more than any other chakra in everyday clinical work. It is used to treat any chronic condition. In isolation and in combination with other relevant chakras, it is used to treat chronic mechanical [relating to muscles and movement], osteoarthritic [relating to bones and joints], hereditary, and deep emotional conditions." He concludes with "The Base chakra represents an extremely powerful region that can be used in healing. It is the influence of the Base chakra that tends to keep us earthbound. We all need 'roots' to keep us grounded." [7].

"I feel centered in a way I've never felt before... wow!" - T. Y.

The concept of Chi (also known as Qi or Ki) was developed in ancient China and is often described as life force energy. Chi is a key underlying principle in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and many martial arts practices originating from China, Japan, and Korea such as Qigong, Tai Chi, and Aikido. It circulates throughout the body via energy channels called meridians, the free flow of which is necessary for health and vitality. Points along a meridian's path are used to access these channels and encourage the unrestricted and smooth flow of energy, such as in acupuncture or acupressure protocols. Two meridians originate in the pelvic floor: the Conception Vessel (CV) and the Governor Vessel (GV). Thus we find the point CV 1 (Huiyin) in the center of the perineum at the perineal body, and GV 1 (Changqiang) just below the tip of the coccyx (tailbone) at the anococcygeal body. These two meridians are considered reservoirs of energy, and among other things, the GV 'governs' the low back and spine, while the CV nourishes the genitals. Two other points worth noting are GV 2 (Yaoshu) at the junction of the coccyx and the sacrum, and the paired Bladder Meridian points BL 35 (Huiyang), on either side of the tip of the coccyx. Both of these points can influence pain and sexual dysfunction.

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References

Books are in bold regular text and journal articles are in bold italic text

[1] Schultz, RL. Out in the Open: The Complete Male Pelvis. North Atlantic Books, 1999, revised 2012.

[2] Morin J. Anal Pleasure and Health, 4th revised ed. Down There Press, 2010.

[3] Wise D and Anderson R. A Headache in the Pelvis: A New Understanding and Treatment for Chronic Pelvic Pain Syndromes. National Center for Pelvic Pain Research, 2010.

[4] Bond M. Posture and the Perineum. Massage and Bodywork Magazine, Oct.-Nov. 2006.

[5] Dychtwald K. Bodymind. Tarcher / St. Martin's Press, 1977, 1986.

[6] Buddhananda S. Moola Bandha: The Master Key. Yoga Publications Trust, 1978, 1996.

[7] Cross J. Healing with the Chakra Energy System: Acupressure, Bodywork, and Reflexology for Total Health. North Atlantic Books, 2006.

[8] Breaux C. Journey Into Consciousness: The Chakras, Tantra, and Jungian Psychology. Published by Nicolas Hays, distributed by Samuel Weiser, 1989.

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