The Self Imposed Muscular Corset

In the Bond girl photo it’s obvious that Halle on the left has coordinated abdominal muscles. Ursula on the right has learned waist narrowing as a way to flatten her stomach. This ‘self imposed muscular corset’ is increased with anxiety, stress, chronic coughing with chest disease and some forms of exercise training. Imagine you have a blown up balloon in your hands. Hold the top of it up under a ledge then squeeze in the ‘waist’ of the balloon. The under part of the balloon will bulge down – now make the connection with pulling in the waist which increases pressure inside the abdomen and stretches the pelvic floor downwards. On the other hand, some women who exercise for extended sessions keep their pelvic floor muscles tightly drawn up for long periods without relaxing the muscles, which causes them to shorten and stiffen.  Both the short, tight pelvic floor and the stretched down floor experience bladder and bowel problems along with sexual dysfunction.

Pelvic floor problems improve with learning relaxation of tight waist, chest wall, trunk and pelvic floor muscles and by training the pelvic floor muscles to switch on early with the inner cylinder of core muscles. When this action is coordinated with all abdominal muscles, the abdomen flattens without the tight waist restriction. So next time you’re passing a mirror or shop window, grow tall and draw up your pelvic floor (as you breathe out) instead of sucking in your waist. If your waist looks like Ursula's when you draw up your pelvic floor muscles, visit a women's health physiotherapist to learn pelvic floor and core muscle exercises.

Maybe all those centuries of tightly lacing women's waists to impossibly small dimensions have left us with a cultural imprinting of the ideal feminine form, causing some women to continue drawing in their waists.