Ok, so you’d be forgiven for thinking that the theme for this blog centres around a certain Disney film, but it’s actually about letting go of pulling in your tummy. Apologies if you now have ‘that’ song stuck in your head for the rest of the day. Sorry!
Habitually pulling in your tummy, is one factor that can disrupt core function and can be part of the pattern that contributes to back pain, pelvic floor issues, the development of a tummy gap, and even a hernia. So, to avoid the discomfort that these issues bring, you’ve got to re-learn to relax.
Why we need to ‘Let Go’ of our abdominals
To achieve good core function, all the components of your core need to work together as a system. ‘Holding on’ to some of those parts, prevents this system from working the way it’s designed to. The ‘core’ is designed to work reflexively. That means that they all do their jobs without you needing to direct them. Holding your tummy in is directing the muscles and taking away their capacity to work reflexively.
What is the impact of ‘holding’ the abdominal muscles
The abdominal muscles have 3 primary roles in the body:
- Assist Breathing
The abdominal muscles connect our ribs, pelvis and spine. When we breathe in our ribs should expand and our diaphragm descends. When our tummy muscles are being ‘held’, expansion of the ribs and movement in the abdomen is reduced and prevents the intra-abdominal pressure being evenly distributed. So, the pressure will move to the areas of least resistance – normally forwarded or down – which is not great for the pelvic floor or a diastasis recti.
During movement the ‘core’ needs to transmit the forces through the body. It enables this by being a conduit to dissipate forces. When we lose the suppleness of the abdomen the forces and loads are unable to be dissipated which can get ‘stuck’ in an area leading to discomfort or injury. For example, abdominal tension, limits the capacity for the leg to move behind us when walking. This action maintains good Gluteal (buttocks) strength which supports the spine. If the Gluteals are not working well the back muscles have to do, creating more tension and potentially reducing the space for the vertebral discs and nerves to glide through.
Without a reflexive core we cannot have ‘core stability’. Core stability is the capacity to maintain control of your spine and pelvis during movement without compensatory movement. A system that lacks flexibility breaks. When the abdominals are being ‘held’ the spine loses its capacity to respond i.e. it’s flexibility.
How to break the habit and let go
Your aim is to relax your upper abdominal muscles. The simplest way to practice this is in an ‘all fours’ position on the floor, as gravity is at its most assistive. Place a cushion/towel or blanket under your knees if they get a bit uncomfortable. Rest on your forearms on the floor and forehead on your hands. Once in this position try relaxing and ‘letting go’ of your stomach muscles. You may notice your tummy dropping towards the floor. When you breathe in notice if there is movement in your tummy and not in your shoulders. Repeat this exercise for a few minutes daily. This may happen quickly for some and take longer for others. So, keep working on it if it take longer. It’s a simple corrective but that doesn’t make it easy.
Secondly, start to notice when you hold your tummy in when you’re in standing or sitting during the day. When you recognise yourself doing it see if you can let go a bit.
Now to work on regaining the optimum balance in your core
The ‘Do More 4 Your Core’ programme offers an initial 3 session package where I help you to start redeveloping optimal alignment for your body, breathing techniques to reduce intra-abdominal pressure and how to engage your core proper to retrain your core and pelvic floor muscles to be functional, reflexive, responsive and supportive to your body, giving you the strength and confidence you want in your body.
If you feel that you could benefit from discovering more ways to strengthen your core to support your pelvic floor function, feel free to get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.