Rodin’s Thinker bronze statue is the famous statue where a very buff man is sitting and well, thinking! He sits with one hand on his thigh (left) and the opposite hand (right) under his chin contemplating something. It’s a gorgeous statue showing the human body, but you may be asking, what in the world does this have to do with the pelvic floor?
In my family, I have two of the five members that are apparently very deep thinkers when they have bowel movements. For years, I have wondered what they could possibly be doing in there that made them want to sit on the toilet for more than 10 minutes.
As a Physical Therapist that specializes in pelvic floor dysfunction, I have educated them (and now you!) that sitting on the toilet for more than 10-15 minutes at a time is not a good idea! Just the act of sitting there with your pelvic floor “open” in the circle of the toilet seat over your lifetime leads to increased pressure on your pelvic floor and pelvic organs. Prolonged pushing, usually due to constipation, leads to even MORE pressure! This pressure over a prolonged period of time can lead to hemorrhoids, pelvic organ prolapse and potential pelvic pain. Yikes!
Ok, so what about the Thinker? I “think” Rodin may have been on to something even though I personally think he got it a bit wrong…. Let me explain a bit more!
Your colon’s (large intestine) job is to pull water out of liquid stool transmitted from the small intestines to make solid poop that can be passed out of the body via the rectum. The colon is muscular and contracts to push the stool along from the lower right side of your pelvis, up the right body wall, then across the body at the rib level underneath the diaphragm, down the left body wall and finally a squiggle down the middle of your pelvis via the sigmoid colon and rectum. Even as muscular as the colon is, it gets help moving stool along by the rest of your core! You guessed it – the diaphragm, the abdominals and the pelvic floor!
During a “good” bowel movement, the large intestine can empty all the way from the descending colon (the colon along the left body wall) to the rectum! It gets help from the left diaphragm, the left abdominals and the left pelvic floor. Did you know that the left diaphragm muscle (leaflet) is actually smaller than the right one? Because it’s smaller, the posture you sit in to have a bowel movement can really help with emptying! Enter… the Thinker!
Rodin had it right with his sitting posture. This man is flexed forward, his spine gently rounded with his hips bent at least 90 degrees. This position helps your diaphragm and abdominals shorten and contract while your pelvic floor opens to help you empty! Elbows on the knees help support the body forward – Yeh!
Here’s where I would change Rodin’s thinker position to help my family and patients empty more efficiently! Instead of putting the right hand under the chin, I’d put that LEFT hand under the chin! Try it! This makes your body shift from your right side over to your LEFT side where your descending colon and the stool are! If you gently shift that left hip/butt back and put just a bit more pressure down your left foot than the right, you should shift to the left a bit more! All of this centering of your body to your left improves the efficiency of your left diaphragm, left abdominals and left pelvic floor to empty your colon.
So, there you have it! If you want to improve your body’s ability to empty your colon, remember to be a LEFT sided Thinker!