Woke before 5am, got up and did some puttering. Then druidry practice. There’s a line in this week’s Jason Miller exercise about a long ritual which consists of drawing geometric shapes in the air and uttering loud prayers while walking in circles. I love the DOGD work, but sometimes it feels exactly like that: drawing geometry and walking in circles. THere’s something to be said for that, though — the walking in circles part, I mean. The planet is walking in huge circles, ellipses, really, around the Sun, and drawing geometry as it goes in alignment with the planets, with the stars. This is how ancient peoples saw it, although their earth was stable at the center —but had you been able to convince them of heliocentrism, it’s possible that they would have admired the geometry even more.
I read an article recently (clickbait, unfortunately, or I’d link to it) about the fact that protruded bellies are partly about fat, but partly about damaged core muscles. One of the things that I’m aware of in tai chi is that there’s been something odd about my belly for a good long while. My bull-detectors are on alert with regard to the ‘damaged core muscles’ claim, but at the same time I’m aware that an incision through the layers of my abdomen to remove my appendix when I was under the age of 10 was never dealt with, with exercise or therapy or anything. “He’s a kid,” the thinking must have gone, “He’ll figure it out.” But at the same time, cutting through the abdominal wall, and through layers of muscle (and energetic movement, in the form of what’s known as the ‘belt channel’) is part of the reason for my being overweight [and we’ll leave aside for the moment that the removal of the appendix also removes the breeding ground for the allied bacteria that make your digestion successful, and leaves you susceptible to colonization by less-helpful bacteria].
Mind you, I’m not saying the surgeons did wrong to remove my appendix. Based on the family stories of the time, I was really sick. There wasn’t much they knew how to do to prevent a ruptured appendix; and there wasn’t much they could do besides cut through the belt channel and abdominal wall for an appendectomy in the early 1970s. Surgery through smaller holes, arthroscopy and so on, were still unknown.
Yet this is the context for this morning’s practice. What if a large round belly is the result of ‘damage to the core muscles’, so that they’re “not firing correctly when you move”? What if that’s the reason that sit-ups and crunches have never seemed to pull my belly in, but instead have pushed it out? Seems dumb, right?
But perhaps this would explain one of the odd practices that tai chi has in common with a set of exercises prescribed in yoga for abdominal work, which is to pull the belly in on the inhale, and relax it on the exhale. Part of the reason for doing this is to open the chest for breathwork; but it’s also intended to awaken and energize the belt channel — the path of subtle energy that runs around the body roughly between waist and hips. Right across my old appendectomy scar.
Today in tai chi, I tried this: the inward breath/inward abdominal suck, specifically with the goal of opening the lungs, and energizing the belt channel, and with the goal of shifting the belly inward. In some ways, it wasn’t a very satisfying practice: I did Five Golden Coins, 30 push-ups (set of 20, set of 10), 30 squats, and a tai chi form. But the tai chi form was slow, about 28 minutes by itself. Figuring out the breathwork on each step was challenging.
Results? Well, I feel tighter around my middle. My sense is that energy is flowing through my belt channel in a way that it wasn’t before. And I think I have some good ideas about improving this work in the future. More to come. At some point. In the usual winding way that this blog finds topics, drifts away from them, and returns to them eventually.
(minor update: Also, someone from the UK showed up last night, and read through a good 100+ entries last night. Maybe a search-bot? Either way, if you’re still reading — hi!)