If you’re interested in reading more on ideas presented in the article below, I suggest reading Dynamic Aging. If you’d like movement instruction via video, start with Alignment Snacks: All Around the Thighs We Go.
When you are constipated, what does it mean? Not enough water? Not enough fiber? Not enough exercise? While these things can definitely impact your, uh, impact, many people are still plugged up after addressing these items.
The question we need to ask is What else is going on down there? What other things could be affecting the downward movement of food? The Answer: You may be creating an upward force that is preventing the natural movement of your food. What feels like constipation may be YOU, holding your food in place. Now I know you aren’t doing this on purpose, but you still may be doing it.
Upward Force #1: Are you holding your stomach in? There is a definite difference between contacting your transverse abdominals (the corset-like muscles under your belly button) and sucking in your stomach. The tell-tale sign of “sucking it in” is a tucked-under pelvis. If you don’t have butt muscles or a natural curve to your low back, you may be mistaking abdominal work for diaphragm contraction. Sucking in your stomach will give you the appearance of a flat belly, but really you are pulling all your festiveness upward. Great for the waist line, but not so good for the waste line (hee hee). This upward action is a force that works against the digestive process. You are basically pushing food back into your body, so when you go to the bathroom there is no relaxed pathway out of the body. You have to strain (against yourself) to get it out.
TRY: Standing and relaxing your belly, letting it drop all the way out and down. If you do this in front of a mirror, you will see that your stomach moves down lower than the level of the belly button. This is a great self-check to see if you are, in fact, pulling it up and not in.
Upward Force #2: The PSOAS is a very large muscle that attaches from the spine to the front of the leg. Research has shown this muscle shortens in response to stressful or anxious situations (ever been in one of those?). If you sit a lot or have spent many hours performing athletic activities such as cycling or using non-natural movements on treadmills and other cardio machines, the psoas can become very tight. Because the psoas runs along the entire digestive system, the tension created will also create a “stand-still” in the intestines. To evaluate the length of your psoas, try this exercise.
Begin with one leg bent behind you. Just getting into this beginning position may reveal how your psoas tension is affecting your knee flexion (bending). Make sure to keep the knees squeezing together.
Because the psoas also crosses the hip joint, we need to add hip flexion to fully test your range of motion. Bend forward to place your palm on the seat of a stool or chair. Work on holding one minute. If your psoas is tight, your spine will bend forward, but your back leg will not move (see picture on the left).
Ideally, the thigh of the bent leg should stay in line with the torso (see how the thigh has lifted equal to the distance the torso has travelled forward?) and lift up as you move forward. Eventually your psoas should yield (release) enough for you to touch the floor (!), but the chair is a nice place to start.
SO! Let me know, HOW TIGHT IS YOUR PSOAS?? If you are having constipation issues, know that nutrition is important, but so are the mechanics of what MOVES the food down!