When you pay attention to the sensations flowing through your body, you become more in tune with yourself and access an inner wisdom that's totally personalised for you.
Have you heard the saying “go with your gut instinct” or have you had a really strong “gut” feeling about someone or something, “butterflies” in your stomach before an important event, exam or meeting? Or have you found yourself thinking “don’t go into this posture today” “ don’t send that message now” At these times instead of questioning and arguing with yourself, listen and respond to the feedback from deep within yourself ……your gut.
Housed in sheaths of tissue in the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and colon, the gut, technically known as the enteric nervous system consists of 100 million neurons, more neurons than in the spinal cord! Sometimes referred to as the “belly brain” the ENS has its own intelligence and according to Michael Gershon, M.D., author of The Second Brain, it can work independently of any control by the brain in your head. The enteric nervous system doesn’t “think” in the cognitive sense—but it constantly affects our thinking. It sends and receives impulses, responds to emotional states, and records experiences. The ENS is also deeply connected to digestion, nervous system balance and immunity.
The enteric nervous system manufactures more than 30 neurotransmitters, just like the brain, and in fact 95 percent of the body's serotonin, is found in the bowels. Serotonin has a powerful influence on mood and the guts serotonin system is so complex and intricate it contains 7 different kinds of serotonin receptors. From this we know that the gut has a strong influence on emotional issues such as anxiety and depression. The gut also manufactures its own opiates – endorphins which help protect us against pain.
Research is also currently investigating how it mediates the body's immune response. Two – thirds of the body’s defences reside in the gastro – intestinal tract : your immune system first kicks into alert mode in the digestive tract.
The Core Body
Throughout the world’s healing and mystical traditions, the belly is seen as an important centre of energy and consciousness. Tantra yoga sometimes represents the navel as the home of rajas, or solar energy. Indian artists often depict their deities with a paunch as these large tummies are thought to be full of prana. Tai chi emphasises the lower abdomen as a reservoir for energy. From the Chinese viewpoint, the belly is considered the dan tian or ‘field of the elixir,’ where you plant the seeds of long life and wisdom. In yoga, our centre lies just below the navel, a spot many yoga teachers call the “power centre.” - the source of our vitality.
In contrast, society has an obsession with flat tummies. Taut, toned abs are seen as the essence of health and beauty. On a psychological level we want to control our feelings, so we make our bellies taut and hard trying “to keep it together”. Soft bellies appear vulnerable; abs of steel don’t. Strong, toned muscles at the core of your body support good health but that doesn’t mean we should create a core which is so strong it cannot release. Take a look at the Buddha, in many paintings and statues, he doesn’t have “abs of steel. Gershon says “If there isn’t smoothness and bliss going up to the brain in the head from the one in the gut, the brain in the head can’t function,”
So how can we achieve a happy, healthy & strong core body? We want to cultivate a combination of four things in the core:
* Awareness (i.e.is there chronic holding? Laxity. Do we alternate between the two? What other messages does the core have for us?)
* Strength (of the deep intrinsic abdominals and psoas – without shortening)
* Flexibility that works in concert with strength
* The capacity to release after engaging
In conclusion, scientific research is backing what we’ve always had a gut feeling on, that our bellies are useful indicators of our intuitions, especially when we learn to relax enough to soften, trust and listen to them.
Finally let’s take some time to listen to the wisdom of our bodies and cultivate “embodied awareness”
Reference :The Second Brain by Michael Gershon: How the Gut’s “Second Brain” Influences Mood and Well-Being.