The pelvic floor muscles (levator ani) are attached at the front to the pubic bone, to the lateral walls of the pelvis at the sides and to the coccyx at the back.
They form a sling as they support the pelvic organs from back to front.
They are responsible for bladder and bowel control, organ support and sexual function.

This website will explain how to coordinate breathing and other exercises to enable all parts of the body core to work together. Please make sure you understand the three areas of the body involved in the core or the Cylinder of Control before jumping to any exercises.


Pelvic floor function depends on three areas of the anatomy

the pelvic floor muscles,
the abdominal muscles and
the diaphragm.

These three areas are interconnected and work together in what we call ‘The Cylinder Of Control’.

Pelvic Floor
Release to Balance DVD: Maeve Whelan talks about the cylinder of control

Pelvic Floor Muscles

A side view of the pelvis shows the angles of the pelvic floor at rest.

The rectum here forms a 90° angle to the back passage

The rectum rests on the deep pelvic floor muscle, the pink shown in the diagram formed by the levator ani muscles

The vagina is almost horizontal as it rests backwards on the rectum and pelvic floor muscles

The bladder is tucked in behind the pubic bone and has attachments to the vaginal tissue and indirectly to the rectal tissue

The pelvic floor is made up of a superficial muscle group and a deep muscle group.
Superficial group
This is the group of muscles at the entrance to the vagina.

These muscles are involved in sexual function and can be involved in conditions of overactive or short pelvic floor and pain conditions

They can become lax after childbirth and sometimes painful following episiotomies

Deep muscle group
These muscles are deep inside the vagina and extends from the pubic bone at the front to the coccyx at the back and the side walls of the pelvis towards the hips.

These muscles are the main support of the pelvic floor

They are formed by a muscle group called the levator ani which acts as both a sling and a shelf of support

They are important in bladder control, bowel control and organ support

1. Pubovaginalis
2. Puborectalis
3. Pubococcygeus
4. Levator plate
5. Iliococcygeus
6. Obturator internus
7. Ischiococcygeus
8. Piriformis
The pelvic floor is a sheet of muscle and connective tissue (fascia) stretched across the floor of the pelvis. On the outside this is known as the perineum which is the area between the base of the penis and the back passage (anus).
The pelvic floor muscles stretch from the pubic bone at the front to the coccyx behind, and out to the bones that you sit on.

There is an extra ring of muscle around the back passage (anal sphincter), which is important for bowel control.

Men also have two other sphincters that help to prevent urine leakage: One is at the base of the bladder and the other just underneath the prostate gland.

When tension builds up taut bands and trigger points can easily develop in both the abdomen and the pelvic floor muscles and can be associated with tension and postural misalignment in the pelvis and lumbar spine.

The pelvic floor muscles are very strong when intact and hence the link in to pelvic floor pain. The pelvic floor muscles are also associated with the abdominal muscles by way of postural holding and the behaviour of the abdominal muscles will affect the pelvic floor muscles.

1. Septum of scrotum
2. Deep (BuckOs) fascia of penis
3. Bulbospongiosus muscle with deep perineal (investing or GallaudetOs) fascia removed
4. Ischiocavernosus muscle with deep perineal (investing or GallaudetOs) fascia removed
5. Perineal membrane
6. Perineal body
7. Superficial transverse perineal muscle with deep perineal (investing or GallaudetOs) fascia removed
8. Superficial external anal sphincter muscle

Abdominal Muscles

The abdominal muscles are made up of:

The rectus abdominis, the long muscles on either side of the umbilicus extending from rib cage to pubic bone

The external and internal oblique muscles extending from the rib cage at the side and into soft tissue in the mid line and the crest of the pelvic bone below

The transversus abdominis muscle, a corset muscle around the whole abdomen inserting into spinal soft tissue at the back and soft tissue of the midline at the front and the pubic bone below

Why is this important?
Generally the rectus abdominis and obliques have a function in pulling down the ribs and compressing the abdomen. They can become overactive when the abdominals are held too much and can develop taut bands and restrictions. This can in turn feed in to pain and reduced range of movement.

On the other hand correct activation of the transversus abdominis muscle can help produce both better pelvic floor activation and better control of the cylinder. Strengthening of the rectus and abdominis and obliques can always come as an end stage of rehabilitation but never at this early stage.

The diaphragm

The diaphragm is crucial for breathing. As you breath in and out, your diaphragm moves. The diaphragm is connected to tissue linked to muscle and organs from the top of the cylinder down to the bottom. Therefore when you breath in or out there is a connection to the pelvic floor.

Breathing can become dysfunctional where the diaphragm doesn’t move downwards as well as it should or where the ribs become restricted.

This results in a tension connecting from the diaphragm through the cylinder to the pelvic floor.

Release to Balance DVD: Maeve Whelan talks about the diaphragm
We will teach how to overcome and release this tension using our connected breathing technique.

By training proper posture and balance in the rest of the body, the diaphragmatic movement improves and will help to balance and co-ordinate previously dysfunctional breathing patterns.