Able Body, Stable Mind, Noble Soul
We have become so conscious of needing a ‘flat tummy’ that we very often believe ‘looking thin’ is ‘being healthy’! Why is it then that the ancient science of yoga never gave any credence to a six pack ab? Because it is more important to have a ‘functioning’ abdominal corset than a ‘flat’ abdominal corset.
Developing and maintaining a functional inner unit is critical to far more than how one looks in the mirror. And most importantly automatically ensures you end up with a flat ab! Just because someone has a six pack for abs doesn’t mean your inner unit works correctly or that a person is anything close to healthy.
There are two units that make the abdominal wall – the outer unit which one can see and actually has nothing to do with a flat ab; and the inner unit made of the Transverse abdominis (TVA) and the internal oblique – which can cause enormous ill health if not functioning properly and gifts us a flat tummy when working well. So naturally, having a flat tummy is related to ensuring the TVA is working fine – not just during exercise but all the time.
If you notice, every morsel you eat reaches the small intestine by the contraction action of your ab muscles. With respiration and movement, the abdominal corset begins its cyclic movement of pushing fluids around aiding in both digestion and elimination. A weak abdominal muscle bombarded with indigestible foods and drinks, results in a weak rhythmical contraction of the digestive tract that moves the food around. When efficient passage of food is hampered, elimination also becomes an issue. Proper breathing is related to the correct functioning of the ab muscles. Stabilization is a key effect of a strong core. Visceral support to all the organs is a main function of the ab muscles that when hampered can lead to viscereptosis and continence. So you see, having a flat ab is more crucial than just the vanity of an aesthetically pleasing mid-section!
When we see the ‘pot bellies’ we immediately think we need to isolate and address that aspect alone – how to reduce belly fat? The truth is there is no ‘spot reduction’ ! If the adipose tissue is very active in your mid-section, you accumulate fat there. If it is your butt region, that is where it will store! But very often we find that the pot belly is not only because of fatty foods but more often because of lack of proper recruitment of ab muscles and inflammation of the gut caused by unhealthy foods. Much more than food allergies, what concerns us today is food intolerances that over a period of time cause so much irritation to the entire gut wall that it remains constantly inflamed. This nagging irritation can lead to a host of problems including a leaky gut that triggers an immune response causing so much stress to your body that it begins to fight itself!! It is time to understand and implement lifestyle changes to ensure the health of every organ is not compromised for a few seconds of palatal bliss !
How to have a flat ab?
* Address Food Intolerance and avoid all irritants to your gut
* Hydrate your body to ensure proper circulation and elimination
* Strengthen your core muscles to hold your organs in place
* Tuck your tummy in by activating TVA at all conscious times
* Maintain right posture always
Four Point Tummy Vacuum exercise:
One of the most effective ways to get the inner unit working optimally is to use
The Four Point Tummy Vacuum
that will both tone the TVA and exercise the inner unit as a breathing apparatus.
- Assume a kneeling position with your hips over your knees and your shoulders over your hands. With your spine in neutral alignment, take a deep breath in and let your belly drop toward the floor.
- Exhale and draw your belly button in toward your spine, while keeping your back in the start position.
- Hold (with the TVA activated) for as long as you comfortably can
- When you need to breathe in, relax your abdominal wall as you inhale and repeat the exercise for 10 repetitions.
- Avoid Fried foods
- Avoid the microwave
- Eat according to your metabolic type
- Ensure your last meal of the day is light
- Drink a glass of water and wait 15 minutes before you eat. For all you know you may be confusing thirst for hunger!
- Chew your food
- Ensure every meal has enough fibre
- Most important – friends and relatives and most often the internet may suggest ‘fat burning’ foods! Remember – there is no short cut to being healthy. Many of these when used in large quantities may produce side effects that you may not even relate to them. It is better to take proper advice from the experts than to treat your body as a experimental laboratory.
By Gita Krishna Raj printed in Food & Health magazine in December 2013.