Are you sucking in your stomach right now?


One surefire sign that I’m going through some stressful stuff is when I catch myself sucking in my stomach while I’m at home alone. Even moreso than clenching my jaw or tensing my shoulders, a squeezed-in belly gets my attention.

Even after 10 years of practice intentionally accepting and appreciating my body, if I’m not careful to manage stress and self criticism my stomach just seizes up on reflex.

Catching the tension as it’s happening is an important opportunity for reflection and relaxation.

Maybe you can relate! So, let’s try a quick experiment. Wherever you are right now, pretend you’re trying to pull on a pair of super tight jeans and suck your belly in. Keeping your belly squeezed into those awful, constricting jeans, take the deepest breath you can. Notice what parts of your body move and what parts are frozen.

Now relax that awesome belly. Let it be soft. Let it take up as much space as it wants. Say something super gracious to it (“Thank you! You do great work, belly.”). Keeping your belly relaxed, now take the deepest breath you can. Notice what happens in your body. Notice how you feel.

When the muscles of our stomachs are constantly gripping, we can’t breathe properly. And you know how when we see someone panicking we remind them to take a deep breath? A tight belly can’t take a deep breath.

Shallow chest breathing can send our brains the message that we’re anxious and stressed and fearful. Deep belly breaths send the opposite message.

We can be at peace. We can slow down. We can send love inward.

When I notice myself sucking in my belly these days I get really interested in understanding it. How is it affecting my breath? What brought this tension on? Who am I trying to please? Does it feel good?

Will sucking in my stomach help me love my body more? We both know the answer to that question.

If I take a moment to dig down to the truth about my belly, here is what I know:

  • My belly is strong. It lets me sit tall and sing and belly laugh and steady myself in plank pose.

  • It’s a safe home for organs that I absolutely can’t live without.

  • It has endured a lot of grief and shame and judgment. It has survived everything.

  • My relaxed belly feels really, really good. A tightly held belly does not.

  • No one who truly loves me loves me any less because of the softness of my belly. Many of them respect me more for embracing it.

  • My students tell me that the fullness of my belly helps them feel like their bodies are deserving yoga bodies, too.

This belly is mine, and it is the only belly I get. If I want to be happy and live life fully, this is the only belly with the good fortune to come along with me.

Those of you who have been with me awhile know that I see positive body image as a crucial part of self care and yoga. But it can be really hard to cultivate that love alone. That’s why I’m so excited to officially be a Global Ambassador for the Body Image Movement! I want to see more of us feel free from letting a pants size define our self worth, so we can celebrate our bodies as powerful vehicles.

We’ve got important stuff to do.

Let’s start with love letters to our bellies.

#bodyimage #bodypositive #healthateverysize #selfcare #stress

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