Holy Pufferbelly!

When I was in yoga teacher training, I realized that I'm a pufferbelly. Well not really (although many would say I'm full of hot air), but I puff out my belly. All the time. I do it when I'm just standing around, but even weirder, I do it when I'm practicing yoga. Sometimes I do it when I'm trying to sleep. Not only do I not engage my abdominal muscles -- I actually push my belly out. It's more than a year later, and despite practicing and teaching regularly, I still do it. I realize I need to address this Samskara in order to continue to deepen my yoga.

I think this Samskara took hold during my pregnancies. Growing babies shifted my posture pretty dramatically, and somewhere between the birth of my first via cesarean and getting pregnant just three months later with my second, my slashed, weak abdominals got stuck: puffed out.

Pufferbelly is problematic in yogasana. The belly gets in the way in forward bends: Uttanasansa, Paschimottanasana. The belly throws off balance in standing poses like Vrksasana. The weak belly allows the hips to drop and makes it very hard to hold the legs up in Bakasana. (I have been practicing this daily in honor of my friend, The Flying Yogini!) The belly makes lifting the legs with ease virtually impossible for poses like Headstand and Handstand. I am astonished at how pervasive and difficult to reverse this Samskara is.

So what to do: draw in, hollow the belly, navel to spine. And again. With each pose. Be aware.

This whole thing has me thinking about habits: good and bad, when and where they take root, how to nurture the good and release the bad. The wonderful thing for me about my good habit (yoga) is that it revealed to me my bad habit (belly puffing). Rooting and revealing, I am on the path to myself. This is my yoga.

So what about you? What are your Samskaras? How do you address them in your yoga?