There is a trend among some health professionals to treat correct breathing as something that is undesirable. Many exercisers are being told that holding in the stomach, in order to achieve a flatter tummy, is the way to go; as opposed to full abdominal breathing. There are times when it is advantageous to hold in the stomach.
Two times, in particular, are:
- in preparation for and during execution of major power lifts, and
- when utilizing ujjayii breathing during certain yoga practices,
However, to continually hold in the abdominals during the day is not beneficial to good health.
The aesthetic appeal of ‘a flat tummy’ actually undermines the function and functional design of the mechanisms of full, complete breathing. When we contract the muscles that ‘hold in the stomach’, we constrain the contraction of the diaphragm. This is the major muscle involved with bringing oxygen into the body.
We can bring normalcy back to our breathing patterns by engaging the mechanisms of breathing in a full and rhythmic manner. The practice of yoga is designed to develop an awareness of, as well as the ability to engage in, full and complete breathing. This is a modality that can easily be incorporated into one’s fitness routine.
We can force our bodies to look aesthetically appealing by holding our bellies in for the ‘flat tummy’ look. However, this practice can compromise our overall health by dismantling the mechanisms that govern complete breathing. There are practices that can help with re-establishing full and rhythmic breathing. Many benefits can ensue as a result of being aware of and developing the fullness of one’s breath.