What is your relationship with your stomach? This is the question that my friend and wellness guru Khadija at Life Wellness Center asked me the other day as she massaged my belly in preparation for an acupuncture treatment. It took me a minute to answer the question because I didn’t want to say it out loud, like if I did, I would hurt my stomach’s feelings. My response was, ”I hate it…I have hated it my whole life”. I can’t remember a time when my stomach was ever flat, even as a kid I had a small belly.” Khadija responded with, “Why don’t you try and learn to love your stomach from more than a physical place. Your stomach is your center of intuition, creativity and life, try and look at it from that space.” I was like well damn…drop the mic! This is the 2nd time in 2 weeks that my stomach has come up in conversation. I’ve also been having some digestive issues, which is why I was trying acupuncture. I began to think is my stomach trying to tell me something?
Just last week while in yoga teacher training, we were doing a breathing exercise and my teacher advised me to widen my legs to allow more room for my stomach. Her exact words were “Widen your legs and just let your belly hang, let it be free.” I was like WHAT? Just let it hang? Noooo…this ask was a far cry from my training of consciously keeping my stomach sucked in while in public, or using the assistance of spanx. While I have spent quite some time learning to love my wide set hips and thick thighs, my stomach and I are still working on our relationship and letting it “just hang” felt vulnerable for me. The funny thing is the theme of my yoga teacher training is you guessed it “Intuition”. So, the fact that the stomach is the place where our intuition lies, and this part of my body is physically speaking to me as of late is kind of kismet.
I took the cues from the universe and started to do a little research on the connection between your stomach and your mind and it all started to make sense. There are over a million nerves running from your brain to your stomach which is exactly why they directly affect each other. Hurt feelings, fear, or anxiety are immediately felt in the stomach because of the signals sent from the brain. In fact, your brain and your stomach are in constant communication with each other which is why emotional distress can cause a distressed stomach, and a distressed stomach can cause emotional distress. The thing is that these emotions that we feel in our stomach, are all ways of experiencing the same emotion…stress.
I began to think maybe that is why I have been having digestive issues recently. The fear or anxiety of trying something new, the worry that I won’t be able to juggle everything. Even though I didn’t quite acknowledge mentally how I am feeling about the experience of yoga teacher training, the personal examination, vulnerability and growth…my body was telling me to pay attention. Crazy that I have been so trained by society to focus on the physical appearance of my stomach that I totally missed that.
Part of my personal growth has been learning to love every part of my body more. There was a time when I would hate it when my husband would rub my stomach and when he did, I would hold it in. I wouldn’t be caught dead without a long shirt on to cover it up, and when I would see other women with large stomachs proudly display them, I would think, ”Why can’t I do that?” I have worked past those feelings and now let my husband rub my stomach whenever he wants, and I no longer hold it in. I’ve also recently begun to wear my shirts half tucked allowing for my stomach to be seen, and wear leggings with a crop top, because I have realized that if I don’t show my stomach then I can’t see my tiny waist.
My stomach and I have come a long way, but our relationship still has room for improvement. By changing my lifestyle in 2017 and eating more mindfully I have been showing my stomach love on the inside for quite some time now. I love my conversations with Khadija, so I am going to take her advice, follow my “Intuition” and continue to work on being more accepting of the physical appearance of my stomach. It may never be flat, but it will be healthy.