Saturday, April 30, 2011

Holy Pufferbelly!

When I was in yoga teacher training, I realized that I'm a pufferbelly. Well not really (although many would say I'm full of hot air), but I puff out my belly. All the time. I do it when I'm just standing around, but even weirder, I do it when I'm practicing yoga. Sometimes I do it when I'm trying to sleep. Not only do I not engage my abdominal muscles -- I actually push my belly out. It's more than a year later, and despite practicing and teaching regularly, I still do it. I realize I need to address this Samskara in order to continue to deepen my yoga.

I think this Samskara took hold during my pregnancies. Growing babies shifted my posture pretty dramatically, and somewhere between the birth of my first via cesarean and getting pregnant just three months later with my second, my slashed, weak abdominals got stuck: puffed out.

Pufferbelly is problematic in yogasana. The belly gets in the way in forward bends: Uttanasansa, Paschimottanasana. The belly throws off balance in standing poses like Vrksasana. The weak belly allows the hips to drop and makes it very hard to hold the legs up in Bakasana. (I have been practicing this daily in honor of my friend, The Flying Yogini!) The belly makes lifting the legs with ease virtually impossible for poses like Headstand and Handstand. I am astonished at how pervasive and difficult to reverse this Samskara is.

So what to do: draw in, hollow the belly, navel to spine. And again. With each pose. Be aware.

This whole thing has me thinking about habits: good and bad, when and where they take root, how to nurture the good and release the bad. The wonderful thing for me about my good habit (yoga) is that it revealed to me my bad habit (belly puffing). Rooting and revealing, I am on the path to myself. This is my yoga.

So what about you? What are your Samskaras? How do you address them in your yoga?


Nancy said...

Are you talking about not engaging your abdominal muscles? Took me a REALLY long time to work on doing this after I had my two C-sections. I had to work on Mula Bandha much more and also find alternative asanas to show me how engagement felt. Damn pregnancies!

Try doing some movements on the exhale rather than inhale (i.e. kicking up from downward facing dog.. "shakti kicks" google Sadie Nardini's you tube video on it). Ditto on hop/step forward.

Little tips like this can encourage reconenction with those muscles.

For me it's staying out of my joints and relying more on my muscles. I tend to get too flexi and use less strength. I watch it EVERY time I practice. I make adjustments and remind myself it is that: a practice.


Elizabeth Gallo said...

Hi Nancy,
Not only do I not engage my abdominal muscles; I actually push them out! It's like a funky reverse uddiyana bandha! Nutty. Something to work on for sure. Love your suggestions -- I've watched Sadie's kicks vid, and hope to work that when my ankle is better. I like the idea of working on the exhale too to learn the sensation of the muscles engaging -- definitely a place for me to start. Thank you for such a thoughtful reply!

adan said...

had never thought of how pregnancies could affect ladies like that, duh, yes, of course ;-)

interesting stuff for a guy to know bits of this, to help empathize; and good you can get such good tips from people like nancy at flying yogini

hadn't thought to connect this to what you're working on, but for a few months, i've played (experimented) with running my inhales and exhales in opposite directions; ie -

one set of posture moves i exhale inhale in the typical pattern of exertion, then reverse the inhale and exhale -

it really makes me aware of how/where the breathe is filling an area, enhancing or restricting further rom, stuff like that; sometimes it's just interesting ;-)

and really liked, "Rooting and revealing, I am on the path to myself" - yea! ;-)

tWm said...

Mine would be holding my breath instead of breathing would think that the asana and the breath would work so close that it wouldn't be an issue, but there you have it. Everybody has something to work on ;)
This lets me know before I sit on my mat that I must be attentive of that time, not to rush it.

lissabliss said...

Very interesting post. I have so many samskaras but the one I became most aware of during my time last week with Sadie Nardini was that I completely was not using my core as much as I should. I would dump into my joints and end up with so much wrist and shoulder pain that was completely unnecessary. I def would take a look at some of her videos. I really think it will help you with this.

Teeg said...

i tend to do very shallow breathing. might have to do with the fact that i had bronchitis as a baby. i am still learning to deepen my breath. and to feel. both are pretty scary!

Y is for Yogini said...

i do the opposite — when i breathe in (or out), i flatten my stomach. pranayama on the regular is helping in a huge way. i'm learning to expand my belly when i breathe in. silly me. :D