Want a flat stomach? Add this to your routine
Exercise can strengthen your abdominals. And as they say, abs are made in the kitchen — your diet does have a great deal to do with it.
But I believe that we can get so wrapped up in our intense workouts that we forget a key ingredient to reaching those goals (ab goals and soul goals).
Are you ready for it?
The big secret?
The one exercise that flattens my stomach better than any other?
The post doesn't stop here. It requires a bit more explanation than that.
Let's talk about Yin and Yang. It’s not just the black and white symbol that adorned your hemp necklace in high school.
Yin and Yang are Taoist concepts describing two different qualities or energies present in everything. From food to bodies to seasons.
Feminine, dark, reflective, cool, introspective. Yin style of yoga involves deep stretches held for long periods of time to work with connective tissue.
Masculine, light, active, hot, extrospective. Yang yoga is focused on muscular strength and stamina.
Many of us are Yanging through our days. (Yes, I realize Yanging isn't a word.) Experiencing loads of stimulation. Working long hours. Playing hard on the weekends. And sweating through intense spin classes, Crossfit and heated power yoga classes in between. Always in a hurry to get to the next thing as quickly as possible.
This isn’t the worst thing ever. We have fun. But too much Yang can:
- Cause burnout and overstimulation
- Lead to injury
- Lead to anxiety
- Inhibit your ability to progress in your goals
That last bullet point is what I want to focus on because it seems counterintuitive. It seems like working harder would help you reach your goals. Working longer hours will lead to that promotion. Sweating more in the gym will lead to abs. But in the Taoist concept of Yin and Yang, BOTH are required to promote change.
I’m not a Taoist, but I do like the concepts of Yin and Yang. And I’ve experienced what happens when I’m too Yinny or too Yangy. (Mostly too Yangy.) I promised flat stomachs, so I’ll use that as the example.
I love working out.
I love moving and feeling strong.
I enjoy running on the trail, lifting weights in the gym and flowing on my yoga mat.
Unfortunately, sometimes this love leads to a lot of Yang and not enough Yin. And usually, it leads to an injury.
Last week, I injured my back, which prompted this post. My body screamed “MORE YIN” and it’s not taking “no” for an answer.
Here’s how I view the Yin/Yang balance. It’s not necessarily a 50/50 thing. Reminder — I’m not a Taoist and this is my personal interpretation. I'm also not an artist but I tried to draw some pretty pictures for those of you who aren't into words.
Yin and Yang are pals. They’re connected by a thread and don’t like to be too far from each other.
You’re doing all the Yang things. Yang level = 100.
Yin is way below. You aren’t resting and Yin is left behind, yearning to catch up to it’s friend Yang. That slack in the thread is getting smaller and smaller.
Then Yang goes above 100 and OOPS, the tension becomes too taut and Yang gets forced back down by Yin. The result? You get sick or suffer an injury.
But nothing stands between Yin and Yang's friendship. They begin the healing process by tying a knot and coming back to balance. That means Yin gets to be 100 for a bit. Now you have to rest. You have no choice.
I tend to be an all or nothing person. I used to hate this quality about myself. I tried to "fix" it. But then I realized that balance doesn't have to be 50/50.
As a wise man (who had a successful marriage for ... I dunno ... 50+ years?) told my husband and I when we got married: "Marriage isn't 50/50. It's usually 90/10. But you can't be upset when you're the one giving 90 because the next day you could be the one giving 10, and you really need that 90." Yin and Yang. I think it's the same kind of relationship.
Balance doesn't have to be 50/50. It can be 90/10 or 30/70 or even 0/100. Change is more natural than stagnation. Especially for someone like me, since I tend to be all in or all out. It feels more natural for me to go through cycles.
For a while I’ll be into really intense workouts and then for a while I’ll be more into walking and a more gentle yoga practice. And sometimes I’m 65.25% into Yang and 34.75% into Yin. It depends on what my body is craving.
I try not to think too hard about it. I just go with the flow and do what feels right at the time.
And when I don’t ... when I lose connection with that intuition ... that thread snaps. Like it did when I hurt my back.
OK back to that flat stomach. By now you probably realize that isn't the point of the post but I have to deliver on my promise. So here's the part where I tell you about how I "yin my way thin." (Sorry. Couldn't resist.) And a picture of a girl on a beach just to keep you interested.
What might shock you (it continues to surprise me) is that when I’m more focused on the Yin part of my practice, my physique improves. It’s when I’m backing off that my body responds. My body adjusts and I come to a nice equilibrium. My clothes start fitting a little looser and yes, my stomach flattens.
I often tell my students during savasana to rest and allow their bodies to absorb the benefits of their practice. So when I’m resting for a period of time, my body is absorbing the benefits of all the Yanging I was doing.
This is how I prefer to think of it. But if you’re not quite as "woo" as me you might prefer the personal trainer’s POV. Ask any trainer or athletic coach or serious runner and they’ll tell you the importance of recovery.
And that applies to all aspects of life, not just abs.
Think about that thread connection. If you hang out with Yang for a while and then hang out with Yin, Yin will start to scoot up closer to Yang.
THEN, Yang can move up more without snapping the thread.
So you see, it’s vital to maintain somewhat of a balance in order to progress and reach your goals. Ab goals. Soul goals. Relationship goals. Life goals.
So whether you want abs or you’re on that path to enlightenment, remember to incorporate both Yin and Yang practices in your routine.
There’s no secret formula. There’s no perfect plan or perfect ratio. Your best guide is your own intuition. Listen to your body and honor its needs.
And if you’re struggling to tap into that intuition, it’s probably a safe bet that you could use some more Yin. So look at the night sky, soak in the moonlight, get plenty of rest, take a hot bath, practice Yin yoga, read a book ... whatever your body is asking you to do. 😃