It’s the dread of many attending their first Pilates class: Will I fart?
Occasionally, even the most well bred and polite ladies accidentally let one go during the roll up.
With 12 years of experience in front of a Pilates class, I’m here to de-mystify gas expulsions once and for all.
Why does it happen?
Does it mean you are doing something wrong?
Can you prevent it?
What does your instructor think of you if you fart?
And the all important question: What’s the difference between a fart and a queef?
I’m going to start with the last question. A fart, or flatus, is the expulsion of gas from your bottom/anus/digestive system. If you’ve had some wind creating foods or perhaps a bout of gastro, you are more likely to be carrying some extra windage down below.
A queef – in brief – is air expelled from your vagina much like the action of a whoopie cushion (more crudely known as a fanny fart). It’s also common during sex.
It has nothing to do with digestion but everything to do with air and breathing. Some Pilates exercises can cause air to caught in your vagina which comes out when the vagina closes again, this is especially the case with exercises which cause your hips to be lifted, like the shoulder bridge or the bicycle.
Given flatus and queefs have different causes, I’ll explain both separately.
Farts and Pilates
Farts in Pilates (rather than queefs) happen because the exertion caused by certain exercises create extra intra-abdominal pressure, which can force the gas out. Especially if you are having to strain to do the move. Exercises like the roll-up, neck pull or the teaser are good examples of this. Of course this extra exertion is more likely to cause gas if you are already suffering from a bit of (soon to be un) trapped wind.
Lack of sphincter tension
Exercises like rolling like a ball or the rollover can also make you fart if you already have a bit of trapped wind. This expulsion is more likely to be caused by the position you are in making it more difficult for you to tense your sphincter to hold it in.
Pre-existing pelvic floor dysfunction
Whilst both of the above examples can happen to anyone, they are more likely to happen if you already have some form of pelvic floor dysfunction. This is especially true if you have had a trauma to the area during child-birth, if you are very overweight or if you are post menopausal (the menopause can affect muscle condition and elasticity). These are all factors which can increase your risk of pelvic floor dysfunction.
How can I prevent it?
- Avoid windy foods before class. The worst combination one of my participants ever consumed for tea before class was a Greek dish of lentils and fried onions. Let’s just say rollovers were a non-starter that evening.
- Be aware of when you are straining. Pilates exercises should be smooth, fairly relaxed and controlled. If you are tensing the wrong bits you are probably trying too hard. You may need to ask for some props or an exercise adaptation if you find you are frequently straining.
- Practice at home. If there are exercises you struggle with, ask your instructor to break them down for you or perhaps try an online Pilates programme.
- Do some pelvic floor rehabilitation. Check out my series of squatting for your pelvic floor. It’s a basic ‘how to’ guide for getting some oomph back into your pelvic floor muscles.
Pilates and Queefs
This one has much more to do with breathing than with methane gas. Take an exercise like the shoulder bridge. Try it now (or when you’ve finished reading this). If you inhale on the way up, it’s like sucking air up into your vagina. So when you come down again and exhale (thus closing everything off) you’ll either trap air up inside or expel it.
Instead, try exhaling on the ascending phase and inhaling on the way down.
Not everyone will be prone to queefs and some exercises may affect your queefitude more than others. So I’d recommend experimenting at home and of course if anything doesn’t feel comfortable in class, just skip it (or ask privately).
The most common culprit Pilates exercises for queefs are exercises like the Boomerang or the Bicycle, anything when your hips come over your head and especially if you get your breathing round the wrong way.
Your risk of queefing increases with pelvic floor dysfunction and (again – sadly) age. As the area becomes less taught, you are more likely to get trapped air. As above, a good programme of pelvic floor exercises can help and over time, Pilates practiced well will improve the tone, tension and elasticity of these muscles.
What does your instructor think if you fart?
If they are anything like me, they are more likely to jump out of surprise and then add some well timed cues. It’s happened to everyone. If you’re really struggling with a windy issue and you’re embarrassed, just pop to the loo and let it go in private
It’s best to just own up and let everyone have a giggle. Farts are funny and life can be serious. Always go with the joy!