release your belly
Good ladies. It’s time to stop sucking in your stomach.
Take a quick survey. Are you absorbing it right now?
If so, here’s the big question: WHY? (Seriously, is anyone looking at your stomach right now?)
A few weeks ago, I realized that I had inadvertently re-engaged in this useless habit. I was pacing, out of breath, holding my lower abdominal muscles in all day. Oh! This is a habit that I spent a good year breaking, so I was upset to find that it had returned.
It is also a habit that many women share. The myth of the flat stomach is largely perpetuated in our culture, so it’s no surprise that many fashion and fitness gurus advise sucking in your stomach throughout the day. Unfortunately, this habit wreaks havoc on the pelvic floor region and our normal breathing patterns. Whether you want to find pain relief from vulvodynia, interstitial cystitis, or irritable bowel syndrome, hoping to lose weight, or just trying to feel more content and at peace, this is one habit to kick.
My answer to the big question above is pretty simple. I want my stomach to look flat and I’m under the misconception that it’s supposed to be flat. I have bought the party line, in other words.
As you ponder how to change this habit, I imagine you will come across many different thoughts, fears, and self-criticisms. Perfect! All these help you and encourage you to perpetuate this useless habit. This is a perfect place to practice your brain work skills. None of these things you’re thinking about yourself are true, and it’s about time we stopped believing the stomach myth.
First of all, stomachs are not really designed to be flat. Even in very fit people, there is a nice rounded area in the lower abdomen. In people who regularly practice lower abdominal breathing, this rounded lower abdomen has a muscular appearance. This is because these people have strong respiratory muscles and fully oxygenate their bodies with each breath. NOTHING decreases pain, tension and panic faster than deep, lower belly breathing.
I hope you see the irony here. People with the dog are actually healthier and happier! Your tummy doesn’t have to stick out, but it does need to be tummy-friendly enough to enjoy a loose, relaxed lower abdomen. (And the models posing for photo shoots are sucking, for sure. Don’t let that be your pretty tummy guide!)
Second, pulling in your stomach means that you are creating tension in your lower abdomen. Stress is not a bad thing, unless it is present all the time. There are times when you need to tighten your lower abdominal muscles, but doing it every minute of the day just fatigues these muscles and creates imbalances. If you’re not allowing your breath to move in and out of your lower abdomen, you’re missing out on the most useful element of your own breathing patterns. Deep breathing, with the belly lowered, is the most efficient breathing. (Have you ever seen a baby breathe?) It oxygenates your body quickly, calms your nervous system and aids digestion. Help your mind stop circulating in worry or panic mode. And energize your whole body. All these elements of lower abdominal breathing help you reduce pain and connect with yourself and your emotions. Which means less overeating, more relaxation, and a calmer mind.
When I told my husband that I was unlearning my belly-holding habit, he was confused. “Do you hold your stomach ALL THE TIME?” he asked him. He was amazed. It had never occurred to him to hold his stomach, never. Oh really.
Holding your belly, in the name of beauty, health or some other reason, is simply not worth it. This is a cultural ideal that you must discard so that you can embrace true beauty, which comes from your energized, oxygenated self.
In Qigong, the lower abdomen is called Dan Tien, or Tan Tien, the “elixir of life field.” A flat stomach is considered a bad sign and signals sexual repression/dysfunction and weak life force energy. It is said that holding this area causes the muscles to contract and tighten, which reflects on our emotional life and makes us mentally and emotionally tense. Oh!
I am going with a lot of energy in the field of the elixir of life, personally. I choose breath and energy. I choose to love my rounded lower belly. I choose to allow myself to relax and release the muscles. I’m done being tense. I’m ready to choose my own ideal belly, and it has nothing to do with flatness.
If you are ready too, let’s join forces and free our stomachs! No more holding ourselves hostage to ridiculous external ideals.