Calming the Urge: Using the Contract-Relax Technique to Help with Urinary Urgency
By Shelly Prosko
PT, Yoga therapist, Pioneer of PhysioYoga
One of the most uncomfortable (and often debilitating) experiences in life is when you frequently have uncontrollable and sudden urges to urinate throughout your day, even after you’ve just emptied your bladder within the past hour or two. We call this urinary urgency.
There may be many different reasons why you are experiencing these intense and often unbearable (sometimes even painful) urges. The reasons are beyond the scope of this brief blog post – and it’s a good idea to see a pelvic health physiotherapist and your doctor to evaluate potential underlying causes.
In the meantime, here is a technique that many pelvic health specialists share with their patients who experience urinary urgency. Many people have found this Contract-Relax technique useful in calming their urge:
The Contract-Relax Calming Technique for Urinary Urgency
When you feel the sudden and intense urge to urinate, yet you just emptied your bladder within the past hour or two:
- Try performing this technique in different positions, as each person finds success differently
- Sitting, Standing, Lying down (on your back or on your stomach)
- Place a pillow between your inner thighs, high enough so that the pillow comes in contact with your perineum and genitals (you can keep your clothes on)
- SQUEEZE and HOLD all of these at the same time
- Buttocks squeeze together
- Squeeze the pillow between your legs
- Lift your pelvic floor or your perineum ‘up and in’
- Some cues that might help: “Draw your scrotum up and in”, “Nuts to Guts”, “Pull your penis up and inwards like a turtle head drawing in”, “Narrow your vaginal opening, drawing it up and in”, “Imagine picking up a marble from your vaginal opening and lifting it up and inside your body”.
- You may find your abdominal muscles draw inward as well (“navel towards spine”)
*If this feels like too many cues and overly complicated to do all of this at first, then just simply squeeze the pillow between your legs and try to lift pelvic floor up and in!
- Hold the contraction for 3-5 seconds, then FULLY release
- Repeat 5-10 times or as needed
- Or you can also try ‘quick flicks’: Hold contraction for 1 sec, then release 1 sec (repeat 10-20 times)
- Then, RELAX everything as best as you can
The final stage of this calming technique is an important one:
- Find a comfortable and supported resting position, and perform a brief calming practice for 3-5 minutes (longer if you have time)!
- Examples of calming practices:
- Breath awareness practice
- Pelvic Floor Awareness Meditation (in wide-legged extended supported child’s pose, or happy baby with legs up the wall, or lying down, or sitting)
- Longer-smoother-softer breath practice in wide-legged extended child’s pose
- Mindful awareness scan with ‘letting go of tension’ on the exhales
- Guided Meditation
- Self-compassion body scan
At some point later on, when your bladder and/or bowel are full and ready to be emptied,
try the 6 Stages of Mindful Toileting for complete elimination and to optimize overall pelvic health!
**This technique and the included links to practices are not intended to act as medical advice or treatment. Please receive approval and advice from your health care practitioner before participating in any of the techniques or practices in this blogpost.**
Shelly Prosko, PT, C-IAYT, PCAYT, is a physiotherapist, yoga therapist, author, speaker and educator dedicated to empowering individuals to create and sustain meaningful lives by teaching and advocating for the integration of yoga into modern healthcare. She is a respected pioneer of PhysioYoga, a combination of physiotherapy and yoga.