Thursday, September 13, 2012

Sucking in your belly - Good or Bad?

BAD. Very bad. Very, very bad. And before you say 'hang on a minute, I was told to pull my belly in', let me explain:

Your deepest abdominal muscle (the TvA) contracts when you pull it towards your spine with the pelvis and rib cage in their neutral alignment. When you carry your pelvis and rib cage outside of where they should be, you don't work your core. But this is another blog post (If you can't wait, click here and here). Getting your TvA muscle closer to optimal functionning is absolutely crucial for the health of your spine, pelvic floor, cardiovascular, digestive and reproductive systems. Not to mention the good looks we are all after. 

Sucking in your belly has nothing to do with contracting your TvA. I have seen and talked to so many women who want to get their bellies in shape. And they all do it: They suck in their bellies. Even men suck in their bellies. And you suck in your belly propably right now. I know it. Because even I suck in my belly. Especially yesterday. And when I do it, you do it, too. (Very good reasoning on my part!)

When we suck in our bellies, the motion is up under the rib cage and not at all back towards the spine. Feel the pressure just under your ribs? This habit of sucking in our belly doesn't make the belly smaller because the abdominal muscles just aren't innervated. Instead we create unwanted pressure in our thoracic area - especially at the diaphragm. So much for healthy breathing! We need the diaphragm for expelling stuff (think vomiting or coughing). Not for pressing the contents of our abdomen against it. When we are so busy sucking it all in and up, then our bodies have a much harder time with all these very necessary downward motions like birthing babies or pooping or menstruating.

If you want to get your abdominals to work and if you want to breathe, oxygenate, digest, poop and birth freely and get a flatter belly as a bonus, you have to start with this: let your belly relax.

Let it hang. All of it. Breathe. And let it hang. The best position for releasing it is on hands and knees. (click here for pictures) Then you can start working on your TvA - with the ribs and pelvis in neutral!

We were just not made to suck in our bellies. Just think of how happy this pig must be. (Though it might be time for pig to learn some TvA contractions. He doesn't even have a lumbar curve. Oh well. Maybe not so happy after all...)

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