As I was practising yoga this morning a thought about my belly crossed my mind. I began to think about how the health of our belly and the way we relate to our belly could be very much interlinked. I am a big believer that our emotions have a huge effect on our physical body - and as I did a fairly fiery digestive stimulating flow this morning, I began to wonder about my own relationship with my tummy.
"And I said to my body. Softly. 'I want to be your friend.' It took a long breath. And replied, 'I have been waiting my whole life for this." Nayyirah Waheed
As I meditated, I allowed my hands to gently rest on my tummy, I felt the curves, the rolls, the way it sticks out and hangs over my leggings when I sit down. I felt the softness, and allowed myself to breathe into it and let everything go. I breathed deep into the pit of my belly and felt it almost take a sigh of relief as I let go of judgement and just allowed it to be.
A turbulent belly relationship
I have always had a hang up about my belly. I remember being around 12 years old and starting to become self conscious that my belly wasn't as flat as other girls. I didn't have a washboard tummy - I had a soft belly, more like a little Buddha than a barbie!
From that day on - and I can still remember where I was in our old house the very first time I felt disgusted at my tummy - I have had a poor relationship with my belly.
I have never been happy with how my belly it looked. I have tried to cover it up. I have tried to change it through fairly aggressive dieting, tried to exercise it away and tried to hide it behind layers of clothing. I have never shown my belly love or kindness.
Is it time to let it all go?
We spend a lot of time holding our belly in, tightening that area, keeping it hidden and trying not to allow the world to see it. There is a huge amount of shame held in our belly - we have come to believe that unless it looks like the pictures in a magazine or on social media - we are not good enough.
I certainly have housed a lot of guilt (around eating), a lot of embarrassment (because it doesn't look like 'it should'), a lot of resentment (because why don't I look like other people), a lot of fear (what happens if I am ill), a lot of tension (holding it in to look slimmer), a lot of anger (why doesn't my digestion allow me to eat whatever I want without feeling unwell)... the list of negative emotions I hold in my belly is almost endless.
The relationship between belly love and belly health
So is it any wonder that for me, my anxiety and fear goes to my tummy? Is it any wonder that I have suffered from digestive issues since I was in my teens? There surely must be some correlation between the way I have viewed my belly and the ailments I have struggled with?
Yet despite all of the abuse, that little Buddha belly works for me every single day. She houses my internal organs, she digests my food as well as she can, she supports my every single movement.
In yoga, we practice Ahimsa - which roughly translates as non violence. How can you practice Ahimsa towards your belly? Can you change the relationship with your tummy and start showing it a little more love?
Here are a few ways you can show your belly some love...
- Breathe and let go. Lay down on your back and rest your hands on your tummy. Allow your breath to go deep into your abdomen and feel your hands rise and fall as you inhale and exhale. Each time you breathe, see if you can soften into that area and let go of any tension.
- Gentle massage. Laying on your back again bring your hands to your belly - skin to skin - and gently and lovingly apply very soft pressure around your abdomen. Nothing forceful or painful - simply rub your hands over your belly - using a beautiful massage oil, or body lotion if you like - and spend at least five minutes doing this.
- Eat like you love your belly. If you know that certain things don't agree with your tummy then don't feel resentment around not being able to eat them, eat in a way that shows your belly that you are doing your best to nurture it. That also means chewing your food, slowing down your eating and trying to avoid meal times under stress. (You can always get in touch with me if you want to know more about how you can eat your way to a healthier digestive system)
- Balance the bacteria. Our guts are made up of millions and millions of bacteria, but sometimes this can get a little out of whack. Things like stress, antibiotics and food intolerance can upset our digestive system. I have recently started the Symprove 12 week programme - which is a liquid bacteria supplement and already my tummy is thanking me for it.
I would love to hear from you if this blog resonates in any way, please do leave a comment below or get in touch with me directly if you would prefer.
Lots of love to you, and your bellies...