conscious abdominal contraction on the exhalation is a touchstone yoga practice for some traditions whilst other approaches invite us to unlock this familiar control, allowing the abdomen to move, twist and behave naturally within the scope of every movement.
this benefits the natural musculature and sense of life in the lower body; and the natural capacity of the chest to accommodate an expansive inhalation and exhalation is maximised. the body’s natural softness is celebrated.
“The contraction of the abdomen is regarded in Rolfing, as a potentially problematic pre-movement which, when over-used, is not helpful and can ‘derange’ the normal functioning of the abdominal structures, lower back and breathing.” Tara Fraser
to experiment, you could try something like this –
take time to settle into a downward dog posture giving your weight to the floor slowly. allow a soft inhalation to expand your rib cage slowly over a number of breaths. imagine you have the large upper body of a greyhound – as you feel the vast expanse of the chest, notice the abdomen naturally reclining up towards the spine – a gentle arising. this is the natural movement of a pliable belly.
or in the seated cobbler posture – focus on the inhalation again – the expanse of the chest opening softly over a number of breaths – and notice the soft belly slotting back towards the spine – a natural, unforced, unhurried movement.
“as the body yields all efforts and holdings the infinite within is revealed.” YS II 47 Translated by Nischala Joy Devi