Most of us have weak abdominal muscles. Our culture of sitting in chairs and long hours of non-physical work means that we lack important strength in the midsection, especially the important transverse abdominis (TVA) muscle that wraps our abdomen from side to side.
This muscle is vital for our breathing, as it is the primary driver for exhaling. It also supports the spine by creating a pressure system in the abdominal cavity. This is usually the muscle referred to when teachers say "belly in" or "stomach in."
The TVA helps digestion, too, by massaging the intestines with each breath. It is part of the brilliant design of our digestive system, that it is gently stimulated by the diaphragm on the inhale and the TVA on the exhale.
Since our abdominal muscles are weak from so much sitting, it is common for us to have digestive problems, especially indigestion and constipation, from lack of movement and massage of the intestines. These problems are improved greatly by strengthening the TVA, and there is no better exercise for that than "Blowing/Kapalbhati." Make sure you focus on strong exhales coming from the low belly. Your muscles may get tired and sore - that is okay!
(This is not to be confused with the most prominent abdominal muscle, the rectus abdominis or 6-pack, which has a different function. The 6-pack is the muscle that we exercise when doing sit-ups or crunches, but it will not help breathing or digestion nearly as much as the TVA.)
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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