Have you ever touched or poked a baby’s belly?
Something you may notice is how soft and squishy it is. Almost like there’s no resistance or holding.
Almost as if they didn’t know any other way than to be relaxed, at ease, and in surrender.
On a physical level, our bodies are fascinatingly sophisticated and interconnected. Through muscle systems, fascia, flesh, and bone, all aspects of our body are very much connected to itself.
I believe this quality of connection creates energy circuits throughout the body. Some might call these meridians, nadi’s, or even chakras.
When these channels are blocked, stuck, or held too tightly by the mind or muscles, they affect our energetics, emotions, and sense of holistic well being.
This is why after a good massage, we tend to feel amazing, vibrant, and ready for new things, whereas before a session, the tightness of our body has us feeling sensations of discomfort, limitation, or even pain.
Where does this constriction come from, and what can we do about it?
Often, our body’s way of handling life’s stress and challenges is to tense up.
Over time, our muscles tighten into holding patterns that lead to physical imbalances that eventually seep into our minds affecting our mental flexibility, attitude, and emotional state.
When we hunch over at our desk stressed about a project, our shoulders and upper back muscles bear the weight. When we feel shame or guilt, our torso collapses and we lose our uprightness and vital posture.
And when we don’t feel safe or are in fear, we tend to hold much of our emotions in our stomachs.
The challenge is that, more so than other muscle systems, our core stomach muscles connect to practically every other part of our body.
It has also been said that our stomach and its muscles are where we hold the most emotions, also where some believe our inner child lives.
Sadly, for so many of us, this young, innocent, soft aspect of ourselves is what holds most of our unconscious tension and fear.
As we grow older, from babies to toddlers and beyond, we begin to gain more experiences that seem to inform us that all is not well, that we aren’t always safe, that not everything is ok.
As adults, we unconsciously carry much of this into our daily lives.
For some, this can manifest as overeating, addiction, or even aggression, all of which can be seen as coping mechanisms and a means of avoiding the emotions that may be stuck and held in the belly.
What I find most useful is remembering that through my intention and consciousness awareness, I can actually use my mind to affect my physical and energetic system.
Through practice and awareness, we can begin to show our younger self that things are ok, that no one is here to hurt us, and more importantly, that we, the adult, are holding them in good care.
At this point, you may be wondering how to go about beginning the process of rewiring our patterns of holding and reconnect with the child within our bellies.
The process I share with clients is quite simple actually, but as with all things new and meaningful, does require courage, presence, and a commitment towards practiced repetition.
Chances are if you’ve read this far, you’re somewhere safe. While you can do it anytime and anywhere, in the beginning, it’s best to practice on an empty stomach.
If you find it helpful to internalize and turn off distractions, close your eyes.
Take a breath, place a hand on your stomach, bring your awareness to where your hand meets your belly, and without judgment notice how it feels and the sensations you experience.
Is it soft, is it tight? Could it be more relaxed?
What happens when you give yourself the gentle invitation to relax your stomach muscles a little bit, then a little bit more, and just a bit more again.
What you may find is a range of sensations. Everything from resistance, feelings of losing ourselves (or surrender), to unexpected joy. Notice what thoughts arise and perhaps what emotions are asking to be felt.
What you may also find, buried under years of tension and unprocessed emotions, is a spark. That spark is the innocence, creativity, and vitality of our inner child.
A child that, like all children before they’re told otherwise, desires to be free, expressed, and unafraid in its excitement to connect with the world and those in it.
Sometimes it may feel like “oops too much!” and our child may shrink away and tense up again. That’s ok, and it’s all part of the process.
Take a deep breath, give your child some space. Smile, watch a funny movie, share a warm meal with a trusted friend.
And try again.
What this process does over time is rewire our relationship to what we find fearful and dangerous. As we find inner ground, we can take this into more challenging situations.
(Please note: These kinds of practices are not a replacement for therapy or other modalities that engage with deeper trauma.)
When we begin a dialogue between ourselves and the innocence held within our gut, it is wise to be gentle, to be slow, and to approach the process with non-judgment of what arises.
To be clear, this has nothing to do with whether someone has six-pack abs or not. Even the fittest muscle in its relaxed state has a quality of suppleness and a lack of resistance when it is touched or pressed.
As relaxation and ease become more familiar to our bellies than resistance and holding, the channels and energetics of our body structure begin to soften, and we find fresh flexibility and a free flow of energy in the mind, heart, and spirit.
They say the reason Buddha’s belly is often as large as his laughing smile is because he’s unattached to the past and future, and therefore he’s full and joyful in the present moment.
May this practice bring such joy and freedom to you, your spirit, and the inner child within.