If I took a poll, in all probability, you would be one of the 80 to 90% of the respondents who says that they are self- conscious of their belly and make an effort to hold it in. We have this idea that to be healthy we need to suck in our abdominal muscles; however, this creates tension that impedes our ability to move and causes strain in the lower back.
Watch the following video, Myth Buster on Core Strength! where my friend and colleague, Susinn Shaler demonstrates why holding the abdominal muscles is a bad idea.
Follow the directions below and notice the difference in your movement capability when you hold tension in the belly and when you let it be soft.
- Stand up and pull in your belly. At the same time tighten your sphincter muscles, your gluts and your pelvic floor. Now keep all those muscles tight and walk around. Not a great feeling is it?
- This time let go of the muscles and let your belly be soft. Walk around again and notice the difference. You’ll probably find that it’s much easier to move this way.
- If your computer is at hand, sit down and put your hands on your keyboard. Pull in your belly, tighten your gluts and your sphincter muscles and begin to type a few sentences. You may notice that your arms become quite stiff when you hold yourself in this manner and typing is an effort.
- Continue sitting with your hands on the keyboard but this time soften your belly, release your gluts and your sphincter muscles and type again for a few sentences. Feel how this changes your ability to type.
You may not consciously hold your muscles as much as you did for this experiment but by exaggerating the tension in your body your nervous system can feel how much more comfortable it is to be relaxed. Once you can feel the difference you’ll know what to look for and be able to self-correct if you get too tight.
If you feel that letting go of your belly creates discomfort in your back and/or more of a slouch, consider investing in my audio lessons Back Basics—Six Lessons for a Healthy Back. These lessons were developed to give you a sense of dynamic movement. Rediscover what it’s like to feel the fluid movements you experienced as a child.