I never thought I would feel competitive with my own vagina.
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 that more than 50 percent of the world’s population has one, it’s still taboo to talk about them.
Don’t get me wrong – people are more than happy to make vagina jokes. But actual talk of the anatomical, functional aspects of the vagina is somewhat lacking. For example, it’s easy to forget that the vagina is composed of muscles, and if left unattended, muscles atrophy.
The muscles in question make up the pelvic floor, which sits like a hammock between your tailbone and pubic bone. Although hidden, they’re extremely important, as they lift and hold your core. And just like the muscles in your arms, legs and the rest of your body, they benefit from regular exercise.
Weak pelvic floor muscles can cause big problems. Physical activities and life events – such as sports, pregnancy, and birth – weaken this vital muscle group, leading to incontinence, sexual problems, or uterine prolapse.
But how do we exercise something we can’t see? Is there some sort of magical vaginal weight routine we don’t know about? We’ve all heard of Kegels (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 fitness tracker. It looks eerily similar to a giant sperm, is worn inside your vagina, and connects to your phone via Bluetooth. (That’s right: even your vagina can now be tracked. We knew it was only a matter of time.) It even comes with a detachable cover to prevent it from 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, or laugh,” explains the CEO and co-founder of Chiaro, Dr Tania Boler. She was inspired to create Elvie when her French husband told her that women in France are often prescribed extensive physical therapy after giving birth.
“As women get older, their muscles start weakening, particularly after 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 walks you through five-minute workouts that involve clenching and releasing the pelvic floor muscles at different intervals. The goal is simple: lift the floating gem that appears on your phone screen above its target, using enough internal pressure on the device. Essentially, you squeeze your vaginal muscles in order to win this video game.
There are three types of exercises: raising the gem as high as you can, 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 exercises.
As with any app on your phone, it’s impossible not to get a bit addicted. I never thought I would feel competitive with my own vagina, but it happened. There’s 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 though. 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 shocking. After all, the pelvic floor is a muscle I don’t usually work out. Of course it’s going to offer some resistance.
What you do need to make sure of is that you conduct the exercises 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 can’t do is push. Think of it as the opposite feeling of peeing: rather than releasing to push it out, you’re tensing to hold the fluid in. Pushing can cause soreness (and potentially damage to your lady bits), but it can be avoided if you really concentrate, and commit to what you’re doing.
Overall, I think Elvie is great on all levels. It’s very encouraging to see the physical needs of women being addressed in such a simple and effective way. For women who have had children, it’s a great help in maintaining bladder control, and an easy way to tighten things up 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: Are you confident you’re doing your Kegels correctly, or could you use a little help from Elvie?
*This article was originally published in June, 2016.