I never thought I would be self-competitive with my vagina muscles, but it happened.
The vagina is a mysterious place.
It’s the vessel by which the human race is transported from obscurity to the tangible world. It provides both pleasure and pain, and because you can’t see its inner workings, it remains the most private of private parts. However, regardless of the fact more than 50 per cent of the global population has one, it is still taboo to talk about them.
Don’t get me wrong, people are more than happy to joke about vaginas nowadays, but talk of the anatomical, functional aspects of the va-jay-jay is somewhat lacking. As such, it’s easy to forget the fact the vagina is a muscle, and if left unattended, muscles decondition.
The muscles in question make up the pelvic floor, which sits like a hammock between your tailbone and pubic bone. Although hidden, they’re super-duper important, as they lift and hold your core. Just like the muscles in your arms, legs and everywhere else, they benefit from regular exercize.
Without regular attention, pelvic floor muscles can cause big problems. Physical activities and life events, such as impact sports, pregnancy and giving birth, weaken this ever-important muscle group, leading to bladder, sex or prolapse issues.
But how do we exercize something we can’t see? Is there some sort of magical weights routine for the vaj we don’t know about? We’ve all heard of kegel exercizes (tensing and releasing the pelvic floor at intervals to strengthen it), but what’s the proper technique for executing them? How long do you have to hold, and, more to the point, how can you actually tell if they’re working? Thankfully, London-based technology startup Chiaro is here to answer our pleas.
Meet Elvie, a conveniently sized egg-shaped pelvic-floor exercize tracker – that, let’s just say it, looks eerily similar to a giant sperm – and connects to your phone via bluetooth and an app. (Yes, take a moment to take that in – your vagina can now be bluetoothed too. We knew it was only a matter of time.) It even comes with a detachable cover to stop it slipping out. Made with medical-grade silicone, the device is waterproof and has passed rigorous testing.
“One in three women have bladder problems that lead to accidental peeing when they cough, sneeze, jump, laugh,” explains CEO and co-founder of Chiaro Dr Tania Boler, who was inspired to create Elvie when her French husband revealed women in France were entitled to extensive physical therapy after giving birth.
“As women get older, their muscles start weakening, particularly through menopause – half of women get prolapse,” says Dr Boler. “Elvie prevents and treats these problems.”
How it works
So here’s the deal. Once connected to the app (ah, the miracles of technology), Elvie instructs you through five-minute workouts that involve clenching and releasing the pelvic-floor muscles at different intervals. The goal is quite simple: lift the floating gem that appears on your phone screen above its target using enough pressure from your insides on the device.
There are three types of exercizes: raising the gem as high as you can vertically, pulsing the gem up and down to hit floating circles, and holding tight and tense to keep the gem flying above a line for a length of time. The device even tracks your progress from level to level and records your personal bests. Sound weird? I thought so too. But as they say, don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it… so I did.
Putting it to the test
The first thing I was curious about was how easy it would be to insert. I didn’t have any real difficulty as long as I was relaxed. Its narrow, ovular design makes it pretty streamlined, and the curved tail at the end keeps it in and makes it easy to remove – kind of like a big, silicone tampon string. And, as with a tampon, it was comfortable to wear once properly inserted. After the initial shock of moving around with it inside me, I soon got used to it and stopped feeling it – that is, until I started doing the exercizes.
As with any activity app on your phone, it’s impossible not to get a bit addicted. I never thought I would be self-competitive with my vagina muscles, but it happened. There is something distinctly satisfying about seeing that little red gem fly through the air, regardless of how you’re keeping it there. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all fun and games.
Much to my surprise I was actually physically tired and slightly out of breath when I finished, which I guess shouldn’t be all that surprising. After all, the pelvic floor is a muscle I don’t usually work out, so of course it’s going to show some resistance.
What you do need to make sure of, is that you conduct the exercizes properly. My instinct was to suck in my lower core and tense my pelvic floor, as this makes it easier to keep the gem in the air – but I had to stop this pretty quickly as it defeats the purpose. The other thing you mustn’t do is push. Think of it as the opposite feeling to peeing; rather than releasing to push it out, you’re tensing to hold the fluid in. Pushing can cause soreness and, potentially, damage, but it can be avoided if you really concentrate and commit to what you’re doing.
Overall I think Elvie is really great on all levels. It’s very encouraging to see the physical needs of women addressed in such a simple, effective way. For women who have had children, it’s a great solution to bladder control, and an easy way to strengthen things up again for better sex. It’s also particularly useful for women who’ve suffered trauma to the vagina, and for menopausal or post-menopausal women suffering incontinence.
As for me, I’m going to continue to use it with the sole goal of having fabulous, fabulous coitus. Because that’s as good a reason as any, right?
Comment: Do you trust you’re doing your pelvic-floor exercizes correctly, or will you be investing in an Elvie?