Stop Holding Your Stomach In!
I know most of you women (and a lot of you men) will think this is sacrilege when I say this, but for the good of your health and your posture…..
LET YOUR STOMACH RELAX!!!!
So, STOP HOLDING IT IN – LET IT GO – BREATHE! Feel your belly expand as you take a breath. Forget all that stuff you’ve been told (over and over and over) about zipping up the abdominals and strengthening your “core”. Your core is a lot more than your stomach! In fact, there are about 70 different muscles that make up your core and if you hold the stomach in, most of those other muscles cannot do their job of stabilizing your spine and pelvis. You are asking the 4 stomach muscles to do the work of 70 muscles and they cannot do it.
Secondly, if you hold any muscle in a constant contraction, it gets shortened and weak. Muscles need movement – contraction and release – to gain and maintain strength. Think about what happens to your bicep when you keep your arm bent at 90 degrees (as happens with a broken arm). It gets weak and immobile. The stomach muscles will do the same – become weak and unable to move.
It also prevents your pelvis from moving as you walk. Each half of your pelvis should go through a few degrees of flexion with each step (heel strike to extension as you push off of your toes). Holding your stomach in keeps that from happening, then you compensate in some way, for example twisting or elevating your hips, which leads to even more trouble!
And last, but not least, holding your stomach in effects your breathing! As you inhale, the diaphragm should drop down to pull air into the lungs. As it drops down, the stomach and low back need to expand to accommodate that movement. If you are holding your stomach in, the diaphragm shuts down and you use only the accessory breathing muscles (the small muscles between the ribs and around your shoulder blades). Your breathing becomes very shallow and your oxygen intake is lessened by one-third! In a normal day, we breathe up to 25,000 times so that’s a lot of oxygen lost. Furthermore, the small muscles trying to do all the work without the diaphragm tire fairly quickly. They need help from the shoulders and neck to do the work, creating strain, pain, or tightness. The muscles are exhausted and we are exhausted!!
So please, please let your stomach relax and take a nice deep belly breath!!! You’ll feel less stressed, you’ll feel less pain, you’ll give every cell in your body what it needs!