Ever watch a baby sleeping? The peace on their face, the rise and fall of their belly.
In guided meditation, you’ll sometimes hear the words “soft face, soft belly” or something similar to that. The reminder to breathe from the abdomen is always there as this triggers our parasympathetic nervous system and brings us into a state of calm.
It’s something that I keep in the front of my mind now because when I get anxious, I’m not breathing like that at all...it’s all upper chest, fight or flight reaction...I be mindful and cut it off at the pass.
Hind sight is 20/20 and I realized that I tend to breath in my upper chest a lot and this goes waaaaaaaay back to my childhood. It was pointed out when I was younger that I had a pot-belly. In order to hide that, reduce that, make it disappear as much as possible to be acceptable in the eyes of the critics (basically everyone who would lay eyes on me), I sucked it in. That action alone created a habit of breathing in the upper chest, especially around other people. That action also cemented that I had to look a certain way, change how I behaved to be accepted, etc etc. (queue the root of many self esteem and self worth issues). I think the only good thing that came out of that action was a well defined abdomen underneath it all ...I usually have a six pack outline to which my upper fat is attached to my muscle underneath! And below that, my pot belly pouch....still.
In the last 206 days of consecutive meditation, this is a big takeaway. Being conscious of where my breath comes from is a game changer. I notice it more: when it changes because of anxiety, how to handle the fight or flight response, how I use it to relax, just be and let things go.
I look at my belly in a different way now to. It’s always been a main focus, but I see it with grace and kindness now. It has its curves and cuts, and the belly skin flap at the bottom looks more like a smile - an acknowledgment that I’m taking care of myself and it’s glad that I am.
I have to actually thank some Insta and tiktoc posters for being so open about their bodies....nothing like seeing a fit trim woman, dropping the front of her leggings to reveal what the cloth is holding in. Seeing a belly montage from an artist and the stories told by the women in the collection is also enlightening and freeing. Not feeling so isolated and alone in those thoughts is an advantage...I only wish I could turn back time and see that when I was in junior high. It would have helped cut through all the BS a little bit sooner than 13 years ago.
I look at myself in the mirror in a different light nowadays. Soon to be 48, I see the hard work as sticking and paying off both mentally and physically ....in all its flawed, beautiful glory.
Baby steps and baby belly breathing...that’s how I roll.
May you have a day of calm and ease