In yoga terms our gut is our battery pack. It is a store house of energy. Connecting with and building strength and support from the bottom to the top of the abdomen will help to balance and improve the flow and function of your energy. Improved energy flow in your gut will support both your physical and mental health. Each area of the gut is responsible for different types of energy or ‘Prana’ in yoga terms, and this energy corresponds with your thoughts and feelings.
Working upwards, the pelvic floor and pelvic organs are connected to feelings of trust and support, the very bottom of the abdomen is literally our foundation, the floor of our body. Slightly higher, in our lower belly the energy here supports creativity, confidence and being ‘in flow’. Then at the top, the upper belly is like our internal sun, the energy here gives us drive, determination and strength.
Building muscular strength in your core or abdominal and pelvic muscles will benefit more than just your lower back. One of the biggest benefits of core strengthening is a general gain in confidence. Feeling steady, strong and able is a wonderful feeling, you feel that anything is possible because you have the strength and physical support to do it. But for many of us the opposite feeling is a reality a lot of the time.
We feel heavy, in pain, tired and that we just don’t have the strength to do what is required. Everything we do and feel physically has a mental and emotional connection. If you physically feel dragged down, tired and heavy you are going to have a similar mental response.
Improving the function, control and strength in your body is going to lead to feeling more mentally strong and in control. When you read this, it of course makes total sense, but we can often forget to join these dots, and expect our head to feel great even though our body doesn’t.
For example, if you decide you want to feel physically and emotionally stronger you might decide to hit the gym. If you went from zero strength to doing 20 sit ups, you would not only exhaust yourself and have a miserable time, but you would most likely put other weak muscles into shock and end up with severe back pain.
I recommend starting gently and doing lots of simple small ‘mini sit ups’ which will be a more enjoyable, sustainable and a much healthier option for your sensitive gut.
In this final article, I’d like to show you a simple and very effective core strengthening exercise that can be practiced sitting, lying down or standing. It requires no leggings or sweat bands, no gym membership and hardly any time.
How to practice this exercise in our day to day life
Imagine you have a zip running from your pubic bone to your navel (tummy button). Then imagine zipping up your lower belly to your upper belly.This should create a small forward tilt in the hips and a tightening in the lower belly. You should also notice that your lower back flattens, gets longer and more open, which will relieve pressure and tiredness there. Practice this zipping up movement with your breath. Exhale to zip up and inhale to relax or zip down.
A note on the breathing
The reason you tighten and lift on the exhale and not the inhale is because this is the natural movement of the breath. The pelvic floor which you should be able to feel tightening when you zip up, works with the diaphragm to move air out of the body. If you tighten and lift on the inhale it encourages a shorter and shallower breathing pattern. It’s always best with any core strengthening work to lift and tighten on the exhale. Once you are familiar with this ‘Zipping up’ movement you can practice this if you get an achy lower back when walking or if you must stand for long periods.
This exercise along with the other yoga gut health exercises demonstrates that that there are many simple and effective ways of connecting with the intelligence in your gut. Building strength in your lower belly gives you awareness in your abdomen and soothing in your stomach. This in turn gives you physical and mental grounding and support to cope with the challenges in life and feel fit and well enough to enjoy the good times.
Practicing these exercises will help you to notice and then manage the feelings in your gut. Your gut and therefore your mind will be healthier. This is the end of our yoga movement for mood series. You can read Jess’s other blogs on layahealthcare.ie/thrive/lifestyle or download the full exercise booklet here.