The third of the 6 abdominal engagements is relaxation of both the front and back of the body. This sounds really easy but takes a fair amount of awareness and control. We are used to relaxing one side while the other engages.
Relaxing all the muscles of the abdomen has three great functions: It allows the massage of the intestines by the diaphragm, it stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system and it can help release systemic tension in the muscles, especially of the low back.
MASSAGING THE INTESTINES
We don't think much about our intestines, even though they are the primary organ of our digestion. Their healthy function is essential to getting nutrition from the food we eat and expelling the waste. If either of these processes suffers, our health suffers. Most of the postures that we do with relaxed front and backside muscles are targeted directly at the intestinal function. The most obvious is Wind Removing Posture, where we breathe with the diaphragm to massage the intestines.
PARASYMPATHETIC NERVOUS SYSTEM
When the muscles of the abdomen relax, our "rest and digest" part of the nervous system is stimulated. This means that our stress is reduced, our digestion improves, our immune function increases and our mind calms down. It is easy to work too hard in these relaxation postures, negating the stimulation of the parasympathetic. Be sure to keep the abdomen relaxed and breathe deeply.
LOW BACK TIGHTNESS
A more specific benefit that can be had from these postures is the release of chronically-tight low back muscles. This relaxation is achieved through the breath. The deeper you breathe into the abdomen, the more the muscles of the belly and low back will release.
This type of muscular action encompasses (from left to right) Shavasana (Corpse Pose), Wind Removing (one leg and both legs), and Half Tortoise. This is a small number of postures, so be sure to get the benefits when you do them!
Scott & Ida are Yoga Acharyas (Masters of Yoga). They are the head teachers of Ghosh Yoga. This blog is about their experience with yoga practice, study and teaching.
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