Tai Chi Y2D137: Everyone Has 6-Pack Abs

Everyone has six-pack — no, eight-pack abs. That’s the insight for today.

It’s just that most people (me included!) can’t see them behind the insulation.

During today’s tai chi, I was trying very hard to breath from that lower center of my abdomen, between my root and my navel.  It was very difficult.  Yesterday appears to be a temporary fluke rather than a long-term changeover of how my breathing pattern sits.  But as I tried, consciously, to shift my breathing lower than my navel, a curious sensation became clear to me.

On some of the harder maneuvers, I found myself breathing from just below my sternum — I could feel a pair of muscles there contracting, and pressing on my ribcage.  So, I repeated some of these maneuvers, and tried to breathe from lower in the abdomen.  This time, I could feel the muscles working lower than that — say, in a broad band between two inches above the navel, and the pair of muscles I’d just been squeezing.  Huh.  I shifted my breath center lower. This time, it was a band just above my navel.  OK, that’s odd.  How about lower?  Here’s a band of muscle just below my navel.  Lower?

Aha! Here’s that band of muscles that were contracting and relaxing, and controlling my breathing yesterday!

And when I consider what I’m feeling in my abdomen, it’s clear that what I’m feeling are the muscles so prominently displayed in print, digital, and TV ads and ‘dramas’.  And it’s equally clear that mine are, in a sense, coming “online”. Even now, sitting, I can engage them in a way that I couldn’t before. And curiously enough, that sense of chi flowing through me, which has been so elusive of late?  It’s back.

It’s here. In my abdominals. Those holy grail muscles of body-builders and B-list TV actors hoping to make the big time.  Those muscles are here, in my body, and I can consciously work them.  And they want to be worked. That’s what it means that I can feel the chi flow — that these muscles are not as developed, or as strong, as they could be. There’s resistance to the flow of chi there, and that’s something that can (and should!) be fixed.

And it’s also clear that some of that fixing can be done while standing around, while sitting, while moving.  Because everybody needs to breathe.  And everyone needs to digest (yeah, working these muscles is definitely helping with digestion — the chi flow isn’t solely across the abdomen’s surface; it’s definitely internal too [is it possible to feel one’s liver at work?]).

So this is exciting. Here’s an easy way to do tai chi when I’m standing in line at the grocery store, and which does not confuse the planes.  Because it’s easy to imagine chi flowing through one’s body, but get no benefits from doing so; on the other hand, it’s hard to imagine that working chi on one level, while also working a muscle set on another, and getting no benefit from both.  Win!

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