According to my way of thinking, the aim of creating strong abdominals, or a “honey bee” waist, (a phrase used in Switzerland), by a forced “pulling in” is self-defeating. Holding in the stomach reduces the amount of motion available to the diaphragm. The organs receive less of a massaging effect since their motion within the abdominal cavity is restricted; in turn reducing their tone and making the stomach bulge even more. Pulling in the abdomen causes the ribs to lift and buttocks to tuck.
I remember being given these instructions “suck in your stomach, it will keep the weight out of your legs and make you become lighter”. Without fail this caused me to become very tense and rigid, I could not breathe properly and under these circumstances centered, fluid movement seemed minimal. From a standpoint of physics, the only way to become lighter is to lose mass or move to a planet with less gravitational pull.
The aim is to achieve vitality rather than a tight feeling in the stomach area. If you join with gravity you will be much more successful in the end. You need to use the ground under your feet efficiently and up through your bones. Once the gripping body is freed, the muscles will align and lift. When you can feel your weight you gain control and find stability. To be lighter you need to feel your weight.
There is no better training for the abdomen and the organs than deep breathing. I should mention here, that in many cases nutritional factors play a role in abdominal imbalances. On exhalation the abdominals naturally organize the organs toward the center of the body. Exercising the muscles of pelvic floor will create deep support of the abdominals and balance of the entire spine.
How to find your pelvic floor:
Sit up straight on a wooden stool (no pad), feet & knees a few inches apart. You should be able to feel two egg like bones (if not gently rock back and forth and you will feel them). These are your sitz bones close your eyes and find your breath moving inside ribs opening and closing chest rising and falling (not forced breathing). Bring your attention to your sitz bones and on inhale see if you can feel them move away from each other and on exhale towards each other. (This is a very subtle movement) Once you can sense this feeling in your body you are connecting with your pelvic floor.
God designed breathing to be as effortless as possible.
Any improvement in our breathing pattern will improve our alignment and movement potential. Paying attention to the breath requires concentration. It soon becomes clear that much of the valuable advice on breathing is quite useful as long as it is all used simultaneously.
A single mental picture
If we think about our breathing while in motion, we must have one single image in mind that we can hold constant as we move. Imagine a balloon situated in the pelvis, as you inhale the balloon expands equally in all directions. You can feel this expansion with the movement of the ribs as they widen out in all directions. On exhalation, the balloon deflates toward the center. This motion can be felt as the ribs will draw toward the center of the body on exhale.
Visualize the ribcage as an umbrella. The handle is the pelvis and the point is the top of the spine. As you inhale the umbrella opens and widens all around you. As you exhale the umbrella closes toward the center. Feel the bones of the ribs move while breathing, and play with the inhale expanding the ribs in the front, to the sides and back, then hugging the ribs towards the waist as you exhale. When the bones are free to move in this manner more space and length is created in the spine. Alignment will naturally change as we pay attention to our breathing patterns.
Observations of science and art in coordinated natural movements
“The Pilates Method”
The prime consideration that one must be willing to accept when making a decision to become more fit is the fact that exercise must be continued throughout life to sustain any benefits you gain from it.
Two emphasized movements exist in Pilates: Western exercise approach which focuses attention on muscle tone, strength and motion. Eastern approach on being centered, calm, whole with an emphasis on stretching and limberness.
Principles Of The “Method”
- Concentration to the movements
- All physical motion completely controlled by the mind
- Physical center where all motion originates & strengthening this center
- Flowing motion outward from a strong center
- Seek precision in coordinating all movements
- Learn to breathe, coordinating breath with each movement of an exercise
Philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer said “To neglect one’s body for any other advantage in life is the greatest of follies”