Yoga and the Belly

Posted by Steven Russell on Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Yoga in Daily Life, Part 5 – The Belly

It’s there. We know it. We try to hide it. Sometimes we just let it hang out. No matter how much weight we lose it’s still there hanging out beyond the belt buckle. And the sides. Yes. The sides. Like the melting top of a muffin.

Get over it is what I say. It’s a part of the adult anatomy. Sure I could do crunches until I puke and end up with abs so tight I couldn’t breathe in. That wouldn’t be good for yoga, singing, and especially tuba playing.  So I get over it.

The greatest tragedy of the belly is the number of guys who use it as an excuse not to do yoga. I say be the happy Buddha with the belly and breathe!

There are many ways to practice yoga with a belly:

Sitting: It’s going to be more comfortable to sit on the floor using a block. Get a yoga block. Most studios and gyms have them. I bring several to the classes I teach. Sitting on one makes the angle between the legs and the spine greater and more comfortable, which can also make room for the belly to rest between the legs in a cross-legged position. I sit on one when I’m going to be sitting for more than a minute because otherwise it would feel like knives were being stuck in my back and my hip muscles were a boa constrictor.

Standing: There are times in yoga where the abs need to be engaged, but trying to hold a belly in for an entire class is futile.  When it comes time to relax the abs, let them go.  If you think the entire class is staring at your belly, believe me, they are too worried about their own bodies and who is noticing them to notice you.

Kneeling: When kneeling and coming forehead down on the mat in something like Child Pose, bring the knees a little bit farther apart to allow room for the belly to sink toward the floor and the seat to come farther down toward the heels.  You can even rest the arms and forehead on a block or a blanket if they don’t come down to the floor.

Supine: While lying on the back, take advantage of the relaxation this allows the lower back. If the knees need to come up close to the chest, separate the knees to allow room for the belly, just like in kneeling above. The weight of the belly as we go about the day can cause stress on the lower back. Many moves in a supine position can help the lower back area.

Prone: Only you know the extent to which lying face down is comfortable. This is a time for using wisdom and judgment. There are many gentle backbends that can be done in this way that can exercise the back muscles. A blanket can come in handy to raise the floor to other parts of the body so that the belly isn’t an obstacle to lying face down.

There are two things never to be embarrassed about and prevent you from practicing yoga: body hair and a belly. They are parts of being adult males. So grab a mat and get to a yoga class!



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