As a dancer, I was told that holding your belly in is paramount to exhibiting a fit physic. Many men and women believe that a tight, sucked in stomach is the hallmark of fitness and what you need to do to “look thin.” The deeper practice of yoga, however, does not support this claim. Yogis believe that you should allow the belly to move with the breath.
The belly should be permitted to lift and expand with the breath.In “The Breathing Book,” Donna Farhi explains that if the belly is not allowed to move with the breath “the organs in the abdominals are cut off from circulation due to constant abdominal contraction. This can negatively impact digestion, assimilation, and elimination (think digestive disorders).” When the belly learns to move, through contraction and expansion, these functions improve and weight is actually lost.
Pulling the abdominals in all the time can lead to back pain.
Keeping the front body rigid and tight results in an inflexible back body. The only way that your spine can receive healthy blood flow is through the movement of its joints. Activating the muscles of the chest, diaphragm, and belly, by moving them in and out, continually feeds the spine with oxygen and nutrients.
Focus on your core.
Employing the internal postural muscles along with the external musculature provides the abdominal length, strength, and support that your body needs. In the words of Tom Seabourne, an exercise scientist, martial artist, and coauthor of “Athletic Abs” (Human Kinetics, 2003), “The key is flexible strength, and that’s what yoga develops,” he explains. “Too many people still think ab training is doing crunches, which does nothing for flexibility. If you just train for strength, your muscles can actually shorten.” So, having a rock solid rectus abdominis is not the whole story. Yoga gives you the tools to keep your abdominal muscles balanced and your core sturdy. Practicing Plank Pose, Side Plank, Yoga Push-Ups and Boat Pose will give you the strength you need to support the entire body and keep it healthy.