All week I have been focusing on my diaphragm and transversus abdominis. Lisa’s Anatomy lesson on Sunday was mind-blowing – I don’t even know where to begin! Let’s start with the Diaphragm: did you know that the dome-like diaphragm muscle reaches all the way to the middle-upper ribs? Did you also know that, while the diaphragm is muscle on all sides, as it reaches the top of the dome, it morphs into a tendon? I’m absolutely fascinated by the intelligence of our body!
Aside from the physical structure, we were instructed about the diaphragm’s function with regard to the breath. When inhaling you have 2 options, based on the level of exertion: 1) If relaxed in meditation, savasana or a yin posture, upon inhalation, the dome tendon moves down, thereby massaging the organs with the diaphragmatic musculature, and pressing the organs into the bowl of the low belly. 2) If there is more vigor to your movement, upon inhalation the dome tendon moves upward, bringing the breath into the chest, allowing the low belly to engage & support the vigorous movement. This was an enlightening focal point for breath work.
While practicing my breath in Yin postures & meditation this week, I have been so tuned into the diaphragm – it’s as if I can feel the muscle sliding down the inside of my ribs.
Now, this is where the Diaphragm and Transversus Abdominis play together. The transversus abdominis runs laterally, underneath the other abdominal musculature, and is a crucial aspect of the core muscles. Previously, I had thought that the Transversus was automatically recruited when doing most abdominal exercises. But, when prompted to find our transversus and actively engage the area, it was far more difficult that I could have imagined. There is this amazing subtlety involved, requiring a gentle focus and heightened internal awareness. While practicing my deep diaphragmatic breathing, I am relaxing the transversus, to allow the organs to move into the pelvic bowl. The conscious relaxation and expansion of the low belly has been a huge trigger for my parasympathetic nervous system. My state of being after a meditation or relaxed posture has become intensely calm, due to my new focus. In fact, my bowels are thanking me too! 😀
I also notice that my low belly is often clenched throughout the day. I am fairly certain this is a pattern developed in my younger years, when I was trying to avoid looking fat. The conscious, minute-to-minute awareness of the release of my low belly has released other areas of holding (jaw, shoulders, breath).
In summary, I am eternally grateful for this ever-increasing body awareness and am beginning to worship the wonder that is the human body!