Let me share one of the lovely things that has happened to my body since it has been home to 4 babies in 7 years. If you are squeamish, stop reading.
In order for your stomach to expand to accommodate those little lovelies, your stomach muscles separate. This is called diastasis recti. I have heard that this doesn’t happen to everyone but it definitely happened to me. The most obvious manifestation of this is the permanent belly bulge. This gap in the muscles allows other organs more space i.e. your stomach pokes out. I feel like my stomach has been one giant bulge for the last 8 years. I’ve been researching exercises to help close the gap. It’s not as simple as doing crunches and planks, in fact, those exercises seem to make it worse.
The first article that I found on Dr. Google explained that correcting this gap starts with breathing. (Do it with me . . .) Breathe in and feel the air come into your belly and feel your belly expand. Breathe out and push the air out of your belly and feel your belly pull in. This is the muscle that will help correct the diastasis recti.
I tried this breathing exercise and noticed that every time I took a breath in, I sucked my stomach in . . . the exact opposite of how the article explains correct breathing.
I realized almost immediately that this was the product of years of sucking my stomach in to appear thin. I always sucked my belly in on the breath intake which I realize doesn’t make sense but neither does sucking your stomach in to appear thin. However, I’m thinking that many of us do it.
I was shocked and a little bit sad to discover that I have been breathing incorrectly for years just to appear thinner to a bunch of people who don’t care.
Many of you don’t know this but when we graduated from high school, Luke went on a yoga and meditation retreat in the Adirondack Mountains in New York. He traveled to a private retreat and chanted, stretched, meditated and held space with like minded folks, all of whom probably had at least 10 years on him. All of these activities are highly focused on breathing. Anyway, I brought up my breathing dilemma to Luke and he just looked at me like I was crazy. He was like, “Um, duh, that’s how your supposed to breathe.” WHAT?! Where has this breathing thing been my whole life?
Obviously I haven’t been doing it all wrong, I am alive. But what have I been missing out on by breathing to look thin rather than breathing to give my body LIFE?
Since this ah-ha moment, I have been practicing breathing correctly. And it is SO HARD. If I try to breath like this while running, I have to concentrate intensely. I’ve probably been doing it wrong for 25 years so I have a lot of relearning to do.
I’ve been reading about breathing as a way of re-centering especially in the tough moments of parenting. I think that it’s more about what happens in those moments of consciousness and focus than it is on the actual breathing, but maybe not. I need to recenter anywhere from 2-20 times per day so I am going to keep working on perfecting this necessary, God-given life force.
I’m going to start breathing for me and not for others. And hopefully bring those stomach muscles closer together in the process.