Published on February 4th, 2016 | by Catherine Tingey0
Yoga and Our Bellies
Yoga and Our Bellies
A student came up to me today and floored me with this question.
“When I do yoga, what am I supposed to do with my belly? Because I’ve been holding it in for 90 years and it’s really uncomfortable.”
She is 93.
A few other women in their 80s joined us, and we started talking.
I realized that this problem of women holding their bellies in, ‘hiding’ their belly and being ashamed of their belly is so ingrained in our culture, that it’s a birth-to-death concern.
This is really sad.
Don’t get me wrong; I am all for core strengthening, Joseph Pilates, and the importance of strong, deep abdominal muscles to hold our skeleton upright.
But we need to strike a balance between engagement for posture, and engagement out of shame.
I can remember as a teenager ‘poufing’ my belly out in front of a mirror and complaining to my Mom about it. Always a woman of action, she told me to do something about it or quit bitching.
When I teach clients Breath of Fire, which requires a lot of abdominal awareness, they often can’t grasp the exercise at first.
I think this is because this area of our bodies has been on lock-down, pretty much since the Victorian era. If we weren’t wearing corsets, strapping electric pads to our bellies, or ‘freezing’ fat, we are wearing loose clothing over that area, all in an attempt to hide it.
How did a curvaceous belly become so hateful, and what is wrong with our culture for making women feel this way?
In many ancient traditions, a roundness in the female body was considered a sign of great prosperity, abundance, and good fortune for the lucky husband.
So where did we go off track?
Obviously I’m not a sociologist or a historian but there is an interesting intersection of economic prosperity and the preoccupation with manipulating the female form.
Awareness is the first step. And from there, we have to begin to make peace with the beautiful bodies that we’ve been given.
Stop the shaming. Stop the comparing.
And start waking up to the glory of the BELLY! There, I said it.
1) Lay down comfortably with your knees bent, feet on the floor.
2) Place both palms on your belly.
3) As you inhale, gently push the belly into the palms. Allow the space underneath your hands to EXPAND…and get really BIG. (Warning, it might feel scary.)
4) As you exhale, allow the belly to slowly deflate away from the hands.
As you continue for 10 breaths, see if you can think only positive thoughts about your belly and your belly flesh, especially on the inhale.
If you are interested in healing your body image and working with a heart-centered yoga teacher, as always, feel free to contact me.
I would love to hear from you!
**sculptures: The Mountain, Nude Dancing - Gaston LaChaise