There are plenty of women who dislike their stomach. They wish it looked different – stronger, fitter, flatter. I come across this a lot while working with women on their relationship with food and body image.
Many of these women also struggle with digestion. They feel groggy, tired or bloated much of the time. Their digestion often feels slow and sluggish after a meal or even a small snack. They might regularly experience constipation and/or diarrhea.
Strangely enough, it is also not uncommon for these women to have challenges with their self esteem. Many of them experience feelings of low self worth and a lack of confidence. They often have high levels of anxiety and they tend to worry or "be in their heads" a lot. They tend to seek approval from others and often put themselves last.
These emotional and physical symptoms are signs from our bodies that tell us "something is not right here. Pay attention."
When I am working with these women, I can always relate to them on a personal level. For years, I also experienced many of the physical and emotional symptoms I mentioned above. I didn’t know it was possible for me to have healthy digestion or to feel confident within myself. And I definitely didn't know the two were connected.
It might be strange to think that our ability to digest food might be connected to how we see ourselves. But it is actually an ancient way of approaching digestive and emotional healing.
In yoga, the abdominal region contains our third chakra or solar plexus. It is an energy center (stay with me here) located between our navel and our ribs and is associated with our sense of confidence, power and self worth. It governs our digestive organs and our ability to break down food effectively.
When the third chakra is balanced, our abdominal region is a fiery, active and highly productive area of our body. We feel confident, ambitious and connected to who we are and our purpose in life. We know how to get the job done. Our focus and clarity is strong and we are able to make decisions on what is best for us. Our level of energy is plentiful and consistent.
When this area is weak or imbalanced, we regularly experience doubt about ourselves and our direction in life. We question our actions – what we do and say, as well as how we act, especially around others. We worry a lot. We feel worthless and hesitant, often priortizing other people’s happiness over our own. Our anxiety levels are high and nervousness is prominent.
In terms of digestion, an imbalanced third chakra can lead to numerous digestive problems, such as upset stomach, bloating, low stomach acid (which can lead to acid reflux), allergies, food sensitivities and an inability to break down food into nutrients.
So how can you bring your solar plexus into balance to support digestive health? Here are three simple ways that, when practiced regularly, can be very effective. Try not to discount these techniques just because they are simple; they might be just what your body and soul need.
Placing our hands on our bodies is an effective way to draw attention and energy to a place that needs some love. If placing hands on your stomach is too confrontational for you, place them an inch or so away from your belly. Let them hover in this space. Begin to breathe long, slow deep breaths as you keep your focus on your hands. You can imagine a powerful light radiating out of your hands into your belly. Try this two times daily for a few minutes each time.
Spending time alone helps us to develop a stronger sense of who we are. Giving ourselves time to unwind and allow built-up anxiety from our day to settle and release. Find something you love to do, journal, write, colour, dance, move, or anything else, as it helps you to find clarity on your own desires.
Physically strengthening this part of our bodies will help us become stronger and more confident. It helps to bring energy and fire back into our digestive system, making the process of digesting easier and more efficient. Pilates, core classes or online videos focusing on core work can give great guidance on how to tone and strengthen this area.