How Free is Your Belly?

In the 21st century, we still don’t understand our bellies.

We’re taught to pull in the belly. Hold it, keep it under control. To make it flat.
Or with the current fashion for core strength, to pull in the belly and the back at the same time. Which is very useful if you’re lifting something heavy, or need to push someone out at birth. So we need to be able to do that, sometimes.

Work with the anatomy, not against it

But to keep both sides of the body constricted like that, goes against your anatomy. The design of the muscular system is to work together to allow the skeleton to move. In pairs of muscles (front-back; side-side) that create chains or sheaths up the whole length of the body. Not in splendid separation.

When the muscles on one side tighten, on the other, they’re designed to lengthen. The alternation of this process in free movement creates an equilibrium. Something you lose if you’re holding in the stomach.

Pulling in everything around the belly, separates the upper body from the lower. You’re unlikely to feel connected to the floor. And if you can’t use the ground so well as support for the whole skeleton it’s harder to feel centred or grounded. (We’ll be working on this aspect in my upcoming Reducing Anxiety course).

Holding in your belly compromises your movement

The low belly muscles are the antagonistic muscles for the very low back. It’s the area from the belly button down to the pubic bone. If you pull them in, you’re rounding your low back. And can’t erect the spine from its base.

Holding the stomach constrains the digestive system. It stops the organic movement of food through the intestines. As well as preventing the diaphragm extending downwards towards the pelvic floor.

If your belly stays held in, you stop the pelvis working properly.
Freedom of the pelvis is crucial in the ability to balance easily. Look at older people who start falling. You’ll usually see that their pelvis is being held stiff most of the time.

Move that Pelvis!

Full range of pelvic movement and the ability to let go is massively important in the sexual act. Full flexion and extension is necessary for sexual maturation. If you can’t let go of the belly completely, you’re making it harder to reach fulfillment. (And yes, people regularly tell me Feldenkrais practice has improved their love life)

If you can’t get skeletal support from the bottom of the spine for its whole length, the muscles higher up have to overwork. You’re looking at increasing anxiety, back pain, digestive issues, shoulder discomfort, neck pain. All from holding your stomach in.

You focus on “beauty” or core strength at the cost of mobility.

Given the long list, is it time to let your belly out?

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