#BE15for15 – Day 5 – Belly Love!
Embracing and loving our bellies can help us to breathe better. After paying attention to what is happening at the abdomen while you breathe for the past two days, you may have noticed a couple of patterns that can occur instead of an easy flowing movement of the stomach in and out. Sometimes, people develop a reverse breathing pattern, where they are “sucking it in” on the inhale and letting the belly drop on the exhale. Sometimes there really isn’t much movement happening in the belly at all and the abdominal muscles are constantly kept in a guarded state of contraction. Neither of these options are natural or particularly effective breath patterns. They are developed through fear, cultural influence and the idea of “sucking in the gut”.
This is where it becomes important to get comfortable with the idea of letting our belly soften. Many of us hold our belly in all the time to appear more slender and fit. While it is important to be able to contract our abdominal muscles quickly, strongly and effectively for many different activities, it is just as important to learn how to relax them.
Any patterns of chronic holding, contraction and shortening don’t serve our bodies well. This contributes to maladaptive energetic holding patterns as well as to physical tightness and imbalances. A strong muscle isn’t one that is always tightly clenched. A strong muscle is one that can alternate between a relaxed and contracted state in a responsive, coordinated way.
How has it felt to focus on the movement at your belly for the past two days? Did you notice any reluctance to let your belly soften? Have you been holding your stomach in tightly for years? Sometimes when people have held tension in the belly for years, it can feel scary or impossible to allow the belly to soften. Practice letting the belly relax in places and at times that feel safe and eventually it will get easier. The expansion of the belly on the inhale may also feel rough and jagged initially. With practice it gets easier to draw the breath deeper and deeper into your body. Over time, the movement of your belly in and out will become increasingly smooth, free and easy.
We will devote our focus to the smooth flow of breath along the front side of the body for our practice today. Unless you are congested, let’s breathe in and out through the nose. If you are having difficulty breathing through your nose, please feel free to breathe through your mouth. Allow the breath to flow freely and smoothly in and out, with no pause between inhale and exhale.
Connect with your foundation – feeling your feet on the floor, your seat grounding if you’re sitting – then lengthen upward from that strong base.
When you take a breath in, visualize your breath traveling in and down through your nostrils, chest and abdomen, until it fills your pelvic bowl.
As you breathe out, visualize the breath traveling up and out through your abdomen and chest, then exiting through your nostrils.
When we breathe in, we allow our belly to gently soften and expand outward and downward.
When we breathe out, we gently draw our belly inward and upward to press out any stale air that may be lingering in the lower parts of our lungs.
While we breathe smoothly and fully this way, our neck and shoulders stay soft and relaxed.
If you feel ready to begin your practice now, set your timer – or press play to begin your guided Daily Breathe Easy practice (included with the Breathe Easy audio book). Allow yourself to continue to observe your breath for 15 minutes. Focus on the easy, gentle movement at your belly during your practice today. Notice any thoughts, sensations, or emotions that reveal themselves to you through this experience. Do not fight them or judge them. Simply notice what shows up and allow it to be. Keep connecting with the movement at your belly.
Maintain this connection to your breath and when you feel ready, gently blink your eyes open if you have closed them.
Notice how you feel after connecting with your breath. If you are using a journal during this process (which I highly recommend), record how you feel after your second 15 minute experience. Did this experience feel challenging? Did it feel easy? What did you notice? Did you notice any movement happening at your belly? Did it feel smooth or jagged? Was your practice today different than yesterday? If so, in what way(s)? Remember to be kind and to give yourself the gift of grace. Tomorrow we will discuss bringing our focus to the pelvic floor and the subtle movement that can occur there during our breathing practice! If you have any thoughts or questions you would like to share, please feel free to do so in the comments section! I’ll do my best to keep up!