Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Taming the belly

Why has it become so important for us to tame our bellies? In some far eastern and south asian cultures that area is called the hara. It is sometimes referred to as the second brain. That area around the middle has the second largest concentration of nerves in the human body, second only to the human brain.

There is more to it than we think, yet all we seem to be concerned with is having a flat belly, why? There are supposed to be health concerns surrounding its size. Girth is supposed to be a more accurate predictor of diseases such as diabetes and of the cardiovascular system, than BMI.

But even before this was spread around, we became obsessed with eradicating it. It's interesting that some cultures take a different view, they hold their belly differently, or allow it to continue to be more like it is when we are children.

If you look at a young child breathing you can see their belly move in and out with each breath, utterly charming. Often at a certain age we lose that, our breath becomes increasingly centered towards our chest, which is not conducive to taking a full breath whcih can be physically and mentally draining.

One of the best things I ever did was to switch my breathing from an acquired belly out inhale; belly in, inhale back to belly out as its drawing air in; belly in as its pushes the air out.

The latter is supposed to be as important as taking a full breath in. It is said that the air is 'stale' so clearing it out is good and it is the basis of taking a good breath in, drawing the air into your lungs more fully.

I struggled with breathing exercises of the breath in to a slow count of five; hold it-also important to PAUSE between in/exhalation-then out for a slow count of five kind.

Far from becoming regular it invariably disturbed my breathing pattern further making it more erratic. It actually felt strange and slightly emotional as if something deep inside was being upturned.

This put me off for a while until I relaxed and tried to sneak up from a different angle. After working out that it was the focus more than the breath control that was the problem.

I would suggest to myself, whilst my mind was on something else not too demanding, that my breathing was becoming deeper and slower. Elongating, becoming more drawn out.

I'd start  very slowly with long pauses in between my suggestions at first. When my breathing did start to deepen enough and become more rhythmic, I let myself slowly be drawn into focusing on my breathing. If I wasn't quite ready, I'd let my focus go back and keep repeating the suggestions.

Although I was never able to do it the conventional way for some reason. This was a little revelation. I don't want to talk it up because if you're gonna try it for yourself it should be your own personal thing unfolding.


After a bit I used that as a basis of visualisation according to my mood.

As you draw a breath in, you can imagine drawing out tension and stress from your mind and/or body; then you pause and hold it, then as you breath out, you imagine expelling that tension.

It can be general, or specifically mental or physical. With either, after you get into it you can focus on something that is bothering you, something you feel tense about and just imagine your drawing tension out of the situation itself or your body whilst you are thinking about it.

It can be something current or a memory that leaves tension in its wake. It might sound odd, but it can be surprisingly effective. And once you establish  this you might find you can keep it going whilst you're doing something else restful like watching TV or light reading etc. Not whilst operating anything sharp though, please.

Just periodically remind yourself about drawing out the tension and expelling it. Until you forget about it!

If you do or would like to do things like yoga or tai chi for instance and are familiar with concepts of prana-life force or chi-energy or just the freshest purest air; you can imagine drawing this in as you inhale then exhaling any tiredness or fatigue.

If it helps to involve your senses visualizing yourself back somewhere where the air was really fresh and the scenery surround, beautiful, or just make up your own enchanted place and breathe that in! It can be cool or warm or you might like to hear sounds if that appeals, depending on how you feel.

Go with your gut!

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