Should you cut back on Kegels? Goop's Lauren Roxburgh says popping a squat under running water may help you tone up your vaginal muscles
Should peeing in the shower be your new go-to kegel move? According to Lauren Roxburgh—a fascia and structural integrative specialist quoted in a recent Goop article—the answer is yes. (Is Peeing in the Shower Better for the Environment?)
Roxburgh suggests going No. 1 while squatting low in the shower. If you need a mental picture, imagine going to the bathroom in the woods. "When you squat to pee as opposed to sitting up straight on the toilet, you automatically engage your pelvic floor and it naturally stretches and tones," Roxburgh explains. This will also allow for easy, err, elimination, since your urethra will be pointed straight downward versus when you're sitting on a toilet, where it's often on a tilt.
After hearing this, we had a whole bunch of questions. (Is this really legit? How does it work?) So we asked a couple docs all about the pelvic floor and if, uh, popping a squat in the shower can really strengthen it.
What Is the Pelvic Floor?
What is this mystical set of muscles, and why do we care? Well, your pelvic floor is the area of muscle and tissue that underlays the pelvis. "The pelvic floor muscles serve multiple functions," says ob-gyn Kecia Gaither, M.D., and the Director of Perinatal Outreach at Montefiore Medical Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, NY. "It holds the pelvic organs in place, like the uterus and bladder; helps you hold your urine and fecal matter; aids in sexual performance; and stabilizes the connecting joints."
And that area isn't exactly made of steel; with passing time, chronic coughing, inactivity, and (most commonly) pregnancies, the pelvic floor weakens, says Gaither. Think of the pelvic floor like a hammock, suggests Fahimeh Sasan, an assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive science at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. When you're young—and generally before a pregnancy—the hammock is tight and firm, with great structural support. "With time and pregnancy, though, the hammock begins to sag and weaken—hence you can see how old hammocks' centers dip or sag from use," she explains.
Why Do You Need to Strengthen It?
Making sure these structures remain strong is important, says Sasan. A weak pelvic floor can lead to issues like urinary and fecal incontinence (AKA the ability to maintain control over your bladder and bowel movements). It can also lead to uterine and vaginal prolapse over time, which occurs when muscles and ligaments in the pelvic area get so weak that they can't support the uterus. This causes the uterus to slip down into the vagina and protrude, and may cause issues like ulcers or the prolapse of other organs, like the rectum.
In addition, toning that pelvic floor will likely lead to better sex. Since this muscle contracts naturally during climax, you'll take your orgasms up a notch with deeper sensations—and everything will be tighter downstairs too, which your guy will love.
Back to the Shower...
We've established you should strengthen your pelvic floor...but is there really any benefit to popping a squat to pee under that running water? Theoretically, yes, says Jenny M. Jaque, M.D., an assistant professor at Keck Hospital at the University of Southern California. But the perks have little to do with the pee itself: "A woman has to squat to pee standing up to avoid peeing on herself, and the act of squatting incorporates the glutes. These muscles engage the entire pelvic floor, as opposed to only doing kegel exercises, which mainly focus on one muscle—the pubococcygeous—which stops the flow of urine. Peeing in the squatting position also decreases the downward pressure you need to exert in order to initiate your flow, which also helps protect your pelvic floor from future prolapse."
Our other two docs simply recommend your basic kegel exercises. "This is when you clench your pelvic floor—the same action you'd do when you're trying to hold your urine or bowel movement in. Hold the clench for about 10 seconds, relax, and repeat," Sasan explains. "Kegel exercises strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and help reduce weakening and sagging."
Sasan says you can, and should, do this exercise hundreds of times a day. The best part? You can do kegel exercises anywhere, since no one knows you're doing them! The more you do kegels, the stronger your pelvic floor will be, which will help with issues like urinary incontinence—especially as you get older, as those muscles weaken with age.
And as for the cleanliness issue surrounding peeing in the shower? Unless you have an infection like a UTI, urine is sterile, so there's not much to worry about there. What you do with that knowledge—that's for you to decide!