By Louise Applebome
In a recent Zoom yoga seminar I attended, taught by master teacher and BKS Iyengar devotee Francois Raoult, we focused on the abdominal cavity.
While the abdominal cavity, at first blush, probably doesn’t sound very sexy, Francois, 69, has an insatiable appetite for new information and better understanding, and for explaining why yoga can be essential for keeping the body fit and functioning.
In the seminar, we explored how finding the proper balance between tone and relaxation of the belly muscles and core affects the lower back, breathing, digestion, organ function, posture, and how we feel. What’s left!?!?!?
For instance: If you over-tone, strengthen, and harden abdominal muscles (think Bruce Lee-style six-pack) you’re preventing the diaphragm from moving and impeding the breath, among other travesties. This is a big problem.
And, if there’s no toning (think big, round Happy Buddha belly) there’s nothing to support the organs and they can prolapse/collapse and become compromised, as does the integrity, verticality, and stability of the torso. Again…a big problem.
The good news: Much of the time, the best answer is just to let the abdominal muscles relax.
Often, you want to let your belly be soft and to drop. So, Francois is all about efficiency, economy, maintenance, conservation, preservation, and practicing smart. It behooves us to heed his expertise and advice.
I also loved his metaphor of imagining the abdominal cavity like an ocean.
Vast, spacious, and free-flowing, while creating a large vessel for organs to slosh around in.
As is often the case, after I study with Francois, I want to impart some of his wisdom and teachings to others. So here are some practical ideas: It’s a good idea to practice boat pose (navasana) to promote good core health. There are remedial or more advanced approaches. Warming up first is important, too. And, pranayama (breath work) is essential for generating core muscle tone and stretch, and freedom, fluidity, and space in the belly.
I know many of you, like me, appreciate the idea of lifelong learning. It’s always beneficial to add some new menu items while nourishing ourselves “on the mat.” I owe Sri Francois a generous serving of gratitude for all that he does and has done for decades. Learn more about him in his recently-published memoir, of sorts. It’s a collection of essays, poems, and aphorisms on yoga and on life. Click here to learn more.
Louise Applebome, 68, is a Certified Yoga Instructor in Dallas. After “retiring” from a vibrant and varied professional career, she became a yoga teacher. She teaches all her classes on Zoom right now and accepts students, young or older, from wherever they are, both geographically and in their pursuit of a yoga practice. Louise will help you stay fit and flexible, and release tension, aches & pains from the body…and the mind. Her yoga studio in Dallas is del norte yoga. You can reach out to her at [email protected].