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Yikes, I Queefed in My Handstand Class

Nov 01, 2021

I was a teenager when I first heard about vaginal flatulence. One of my gymnastics teammates announced loudly, “omg! I just did my first fanny fart”. It was as if she had unlocked a new skill. We all cracked up and spent the next two days trying as hard as possible to also nail the fanny fart!

Fast forward 30 years and now women approach me whispering about their “problem”. “Every time I do a handstand I queef!”. It’s embarrassing and they feel broken. How can they make it go away?

To answer this question I talked to Dr. Jen Morgan, a Doctor of Physical Therapy specializing in pelvic health issues. The following is a lightly edited version of that conversation. You can watch the full interview that I did with Jen here.

So what is queefing?

Let’s begin by understanding what queefing is. Queefing or fanny farts (as we say in Scotland) is vaginal flatulence, air that is coming out of the vagina. It can happen during any activity but most of the time it happens when we invert. When our hips are higher than our head or our chest it is easier for air to escape.

What causes us to queef during handstands?

Your vagina is a tube. It is a muscular canal. We like to think that it is very rigid, but it's not. So sometimes we can have pocketing where air gets trapped. When we alter our position that air is no longer trapped. It's like, Hey, I'm free. Being in an inverted position helps to pull the air out of our body.

The vagina itself is supported by the sling of muscles of your pelvic floor. There are two situations where the muscles of your pelvic floor may be causing your vaginal flatulence.

The first situation is when there are muscles that are too weak and so they don't have enough tone to give your vaginal canal support. This helps to create some of those air pockets. The other situation is when you have muscles that are too tight. In this case the muscles are constricting that space and leaving a little bit of air or areas for air to hang out.

How do we know if our queefing is caused by pelvic floor issues?

The easiest way to assess what is going on is to visit a pelvic floor physical therapist.

There is a really awesome screening tool from Nicole Cozean, a physical therapist. This simple questionnaire can help you identify if there’s something going on that you might want to get checked out.

How can we prevent vaginal flatulence when inverted?

A great place to start is to explore your breathing patterns. After that you can assess what's happening with your core.

If you have a full length mirror at home take a couple breaths and figure out where your breathing pattern is. Are you breathing from your chest? Are you breathing from the belly? Are you doing a combination? Are you expanding at your rib cage laterally? So expand to the sides and then also front/back. Start mapping out where you are breathing into.

Side note: Contrary to what is often taught, there is no breathing variation that is the only good approach. And no breathing approach is bad. However, if you have a tendency to always breathe from your chest you may benefit from practicing diaphragmatic breathing.

Diaphragmatic breathing 101 from Sarah Young

Gently exhale.

Then inhale through your nose feeling the coolness of the air as it moves into your nose and across your sinuses.

Exhale with a soft “ahhh”. Almost as if you want to fog up a mirror.

Exhale fully but without force.

Pause for your body to say… “time to breathe” and inhale (inhalation is a reflex).

Inhale again feeling the coolness of the air swirl up your nostrils and across your face.

Feel your breath expand into the width and length of your back.

Then exhale again through your nose or with a gentle, whispered “ahhh”.

Repeat the cycle.

The next step is to figure out when you are engaging your core. You want your core to match your exercise. You do not want to be super hard flexing your core for every activity.

When you are engaging your core does it look like it's bearing out to get tight? When you do this to give you that stability, then you are actually pushing your pelvic floor down. And that can be contributing to some of that vaginal flatulence.

If you think of a balloon. If I were to press the front part of that balloon inwards, the bottom part of the balloon is going to almost bottom out.

You want to be able to coordinate your breathing to make sure that everything is, for lack of a better term, properly engaged. And you want to do this without creating more tension in a different area of your core canister. You want to control your breathing and manage your pressure.

If you are looking for foundational core work, follow @getmomstrong on Instagram. Her demographic is for postpartum individuals who are having diastasis, but her foundational core work is suitable for everybody. And every single person should be doing that in my opinion, foundational core work, foundational breathing & engagement activation.

What does managing your pressure mean?

The biggest take home for managing your pressure during activities is, “are you holding your breath, clenching and turning purple in your face?”. If you are doing those things you are not managing your pressure. You're increasing the pressure in your abdomen, your pelvis, and in your chest. And in turn, you're going to experience tension up through your head, chin and jaw area.

What I mean by managing your pressure is you want to regulate your breathing to work with your musculoskeletal system. When you exhale, you want to engage the proper muscles for whatever activity you are doing. Continuing to breathe is going to be crucial in managing your pressures. If you're focusing on breathing, you're doing the right things.

How to turn upside down?

You might be thinking "ok but what about when I go upside down?". How can you implement the same breathing patterns and core engagement when you are in a handstand?

When you are upside down, there’s an increased chance of rib flare and back curvature (the dreaded banana - sign up for my solution below). That's going to change what is happening in our core canister and our pressure regulation. It's going to put more pressure on your pelvic floor. This may lead to more creeping. Part of the solution is getting into a better position (ribs down, back straight) where you can manage these things better.

And yes, it is really hard when you get upside down! So begin on your back and then move to pseudo-inversions such as a yoga down dog position. Can you breathe and regulate pressure in these positions?

A tripod headstand is great because it is more stable than a handstand. Hang out in this position and make sure your ribs are not flared. Then what is proper engagement?

For most people the transverse core and pelvic floor are besties! So we want our transverse core to be working. And hopefully our pelvic floor is just coming along for the ride, which is great because it means we're not going to over contract. That's what we're looking for.

Side note: How do you know if you are engaging your transverse abdominis (TVA)?

Place your hands on your hips. Then move your hands inward and down slightly. When you engage your TVA, you will feel a tensing of the muscles under your fingers. If you watch in a mirror you may see a very slight movement of your lower abs.

The next step is the pike “L” handstand with your feet on a box or ball. Then moving to a chest facing the wall handstand. You want to take it as easy as possible. You want to start with something that doesn't feel too hard. And then eventually you're working your way up to more difficult things.

Key takeaways

My key takeaways from my conversation with Dr Jen Morgan are:

  • Practice breathing exercises
  • Learn how to manage your abdominal pressure
  • Focus on positioning and alignment upside down
  • Progress slowly, only adding complexity when you master the previous exercise
  • Above all else breathe!

More Information

In this article I have just included a basic overview of vaginal flatulence and handstands, what it is, why it happens and what we can do about it. However, this is a huge topic and Dr. Jen Morgan and I covered more topics in our discussion. You can watch the full video to also hear:

  • How to find a good pelvic floor PT?
  • How to tell if you are engaging your pelvic floor (be prepared to grab a mirror and take a look)?
  • When should you feel your pelvic floor engaging?
  • What else can a pelvic floor therapist help you with?
  • Should you suck your tummy in?
  • What you should know if you are nervous about seeing a pelvic floor PT?
  • Is your case hopeless?

Check out the full interview here.



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