Common Misconception: "navel to spine" helps my posture.

I put out a poll over the weekend with two questions.

The first question was: 'have you been taught to "activate your core" with belly button to spine. 88% said yes!

Second was: do you find yourself sucking in your tummy a lot during the day? 64% said yes.

90% of the respondents where female- 2 out of 4 of the people who said 'no' to the second question were men.

I didn't ask a follow-up question like "why do you suck in your tummy (navel to spine) a lot during the day", but I can assume that I would get a couple of answers:

  1. To help my posture

  2. It's just become a habit

  3. That's how I've been taught to 'activate my core'

  4. It helps me to look leaner

I've said all of the above as well. & I catch myself pulling my belly button and holding it there often during the day. And honestly, it's not "wrong" to pull in your belly button. But a good question to ask yourself is 'why' you are doing this.

To not confuse talking about to different things, what I am going to say about the "navel to spine" cue is the same for whether you are statically sitting or standing, as well as if you are lifting your kiddo or kettlebell.

Navel to spine mostly gets the rectus abdominus (6-pack muscle) activated. The job of the rectus muscle is to flex the spine. It actually provides minimal stability of the pelvis/spine/core system which is usually the main intent behind this cue.

Navel to spine can farther contribute to symptoms such as pelvic/abdominal pain, as well as bloating and digestion/gut system symptoms. Take this photo of the balloon as an analogy of this...

Think of the wrap being located at the belly button. Pulling in here increased the pressure up and down into the balloon. The muscles above (diaphragm), behind (spinal erector muscles), below (pelvic floor), and in front (rectus, obliques) will compensate by becoming overactive, tight, and possibly pain/dysfunction.

Holding the navel to the spine actually causes more rigidity and stiffness to this entire core system in order to hold and sustain a posture.

Well intentioned, but think about that. This always reminds me of that project in elementary school where you drop an egg from a second story with the goal to not get it to break. You have to wrap it up in a way that there is some give and support in order not to break it, versus allowing the egg to remain stiff. Our core system needs this dynamic movement throughout the day as well, and we get this with breathing!

We breathe 24,000 times per day. Navel to spine does not allow this dynamic movement of the "balloon" in the abdomen. Allowing intermittent deep breaths during the day where the belly, back, sides and chest get to expand will provide an internal pressure system that allows for stability.

Here is a quick video I made on what you can do instead of navel to spine:

Yes, the music is quite obnoxious, but sucking in always makes me feel tense and spaz-y like the music implies - slowing down and being able to take some nice deep breaths is so helpful and honestly a "go-to" now. I don't have to think about it as much anymore, it's becoming a new habit.

This video by Julie Wiebe who is also a pelvic floor physical therapist uses the same balloon analogy in this video. Check it out it's super quick:

Here is another great short video of the balloon analogy with Julie Wiebe.

So here is your action plan:

  1. Start checking in- if you notice the belly button pulling in, asking yourself why.

  2. See if you can take a few deep breaths where you allow your chest to expand on the inhale - imagine that downward movement of the diaphragm occurring.

  3. On your exhale, soften the area of the abdomen and let that belly free!

I promise you won't lose your 'good posture' doing this, and over time it will become a new habit.

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