Exploring the pubococcygeal muscle (PC muscle)
We talk a lot in yoga about the pelvic floor muscles, especially their relationship to regulating breathing and engaging bandha. But what muscles are we really talking about when we say, “pelvic floor”? The pelvic floor muscles as a group are all of the muscles that fill in that space at the bottom of the pelvis between the bones. There are actually multiple layers of pelvic floor muscles. With respect to their relevance to yoga, we are interested in the deep pelvic floor muscles. We are interested in one muscle in particular, the pubococcygeal muscle, or PC muscle. This is one of the muscles in the levator ani group of muscles.
What does the name of the pubococcygeal muscle mean?
Pubo is from the Latin word pubes which refers to the groin. Coccygeus is a Latin word meaning “of the coccyx” and is also related to the Greek word kokkyx. So, the name of this muscle describes its location. You can put the root words together to get a muscle that goes from the pubic bone (or groin area) to the coccyx, your tailbone. The pubococcygeal muscle is often referred to by its abbreviation, the PC muscle.
Where does the pubococcygeal muscle (PC muscle) attach?
The PC muscle originates on the pubic bone.
What actions does the pubococcygeal muscle do?
The PC muscle provides physical support to the viscera and organs. When the pubococcygeal muscle contracts, it works along with its synergist muscles to lift the floor of the pelvis. And, in the process, it provides muscular support for the organs and viscera that are located above the pelvic bowl. Indirectly, we could also say that the pubococcygeal muscle assists in supporting and stabilizing the spine because it’s the pelvis that supports the spine.
The pubococcygeal muscle may also contribute with the other muscles in the levator ani group to controlling urinary flow. The most recent research suggests that it may actually be a different muscle, the puborectalis that is primarily responsible for this function. Either way, this is still something that researchers are debating.
Actions of the pubococcygeal muscle in yoga
The pubococcygeal muscle contracts along with other muscles to create the tone of our pelvic floor. In the context of yoga asana, the contraction or activation of this muscle is something that we have an intention to maintain throughout our asana practice if we are utilizing the physical component of mula bandha. There is an additional connection to make here to uddiyana bandha from a physical point of view. When you contract your lower abdominal muscles, the pelvic floor muscles also typically contract. Likewise, when you contract your pelvic floor, the lower abdominal muscles also tend to contract along with it. When you put this all together you get a sense of “the core”. It is also the physical doorway to the energetic concept of mula bandha specifically, and is somewhat linked to uddiyana bandha.