Following the excesses of our recent Christmas and New Year festivities, many of us are probably (rightly or wrongly) focusing on our bellies right now! But whether it’s looking as rippled and taut as your grandmother’s washboard, or you’re doing a passable impression of the Buddha himself, there’s a lot more to the belly region than just how it looks. So while our awareness is down there, I’d like to take this opportunity to raise your awareness of this important area.
Our bellies are the seat of our power. In Hawaiian philosophy, for instance, the belly is where all our strength or ‘mana’ comes from. In Eastern traditions, it’s where the solar plexus chakra is found, relating to issues of personal power and self esteem. When our bellies and our solar plexus chakras are healthy, this area helps to bring us drive, discipline, enthusiasm, organisation and effectiveness. But if it’s out of balance, we can feel insecure, needy and depressed.
The belly is also the home of our emotions – and if you’ve ever felt butterflies in your stomach, you’ll know how easy it is to store emotional upset in this area.
One of the best ways to clear this region is through deep belly breathing. When we belly breathe, we not only breathe oxygen into the neglected bottom portion of our lungs (the healthiest way to breathe), but we also free any emotions stored in the belly. Just a few minutes of deep breathing a day will teach your body to breathe more deeply, even when you’re asleep.
It might seem awkward or contrived to breathe into our bellies at first – especially if like so many, you’re a ‘shallow breather’. But remember that we’re actually supposed to breathe like this all the time. If you observe a baby asleep on its back, it’s belly rises and falls with each breath, just as nature intended. Yet somewhere along the way, as adults, we’ve forgotten to breathe this way. We get stressed, exhausted or fearful, and our breathing changes accordingly. But practise belly breathing, and over time it will become second nature once again.
To belly breathe, simply inhale through your nose, allowing your lower abdomen to expand so that your navel bulges outwards. You should also feel your diaphragm drop slightly downwards. You can also try exhaling through the nose with a little force, pulling your belly in a little to help push out the stale air, as if you were trying to connect it with the spine.
Advanced breathing techniques (called ‘breathwork’) are a component of many tantric practices, including tantric massage. By breathing in a conscious, structured way, we can release stored stress, pain and trauma, and it can be a powerful and cathartic experience.
Whether you practice by yourself, or in a session with a tantra practitioner like me, deep breathing can be one of the best ways to release stuck emotions, energise the body and regulate the belly. So whether it’s a six-pack or a barrel, breathe in and out through your belly with pride, and enjoy the benefits!
In love and light,