At the start of every, yes every YOGATHEA® class we lift our hands overhead with an inhale. Lifting hands awakens the body. It's a basic yoga position which lengthens and strengthens throughout the upper body and feels great! Perhaps that's because it's also a posture of power, a salute.

lift hands

Lifting hands is also a salute to God in the Bible, a posture of prayer. The Bible has lots of references to lifting hands, some folks believe I Timothy 2:8 to be the most relevant, trumping all other references, because it specifically instructs men to lift hands (and not the women). It starts off a controversial passage which discusses women's clothing choices and tell us all to be quiet. You can read it on your own. Being I'm a habitual wearer of yoga pants and talk as the instructor, I break most of these commands multiple times a week when I teach class to women and men. (Gasp!) Fortunatly, I've come to realize that women have been breaking this command for centuries, including THE Saint Mary Mother of Jesus, that rebel!

Last week I had the pleasure to hear Dr. Ally Kateusz share about her research on the intersection of gender and religion in early Christian art. She shared about how Mary, Mother of Jesus, is a frequent art subject of these early peoples. Now, my husband's family is Catholic and my dad was Coptic so I run into the soft-smiled virgin-with-child Madonna frequently--sometimes she's white, other times she's middle-eastern brown with an ornamental halo. The statues I see of here in Indiana have her hands open below the waist, not raised. In Rome, the earliest surviving image of Mary is dated around 350AD and resides in the former home of the popes. She's standing above the alter, surounded by the apostles as she lifts her hands and leads the men in prayer! She's wearing a pallium with red crosses which is a garment reserved for bishops and popes. Mary is breaking all the rules and wearing an ornamental robe...no baby in sight. The lifting hands Mary is hidden (wonder why?!) and Dr. Kateusz said it took her a while to find it (and then she got stuck behind the obstructing baptismal because Mass started, oops!). She took the time to document the obstruction in a short (and powerful) power point here:

I like lifting hands Mary, I think of her each time I start class and awaken my body. She reminds me to say "women, lift your hands!

The most frequent question I am asked as a fitness instructor is, "How do I get rid of this?" (envision woman grabbing abdominal fat).

 WOMAN SQUEEZING TUMMY FAT

 

 

Okay, so you don't have to envision.

 

Having strong abdominals after spending 3.5 years of my life pregnant and birthing 4 children (yes I'm boasting), here is my skinny on belly fat:

1. Burn It Off

 

The best and only way to reduce abdominal fat, or any other fat tissue for that matter, is burning it off. I'm talking about burning calories here, you know, cardiovascular exercise? Say hello to your friend the elliptical or treadmill because to burn off the belly, you will be spending lots of time on these machines.

2. Why Type of Fat?

 

There are 2 kinds of abdominal fat:

 

Subcutaneous Fat--This is the fat just beneath the skin, burying your six-pack abs. When you bend over, it bunches into rolls or you can purse the excess into various shapes as demonstrated in the picture, 

 

Visceral Fat--This is the fat that is underneath your abdominal muscles and lives among your internal organs, weighing them down and increasing your risk for heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, and cancer.  

3. Keep Your Waist Circumference to Less Than Half Your Height

 

This simple advice can save your life because ABDOMINAL FAT IS DANGEROUS TO YOUR HEALTH. Yes, I'm yelling at you. Of 30,000 adults of various ethnic groups, waist circumference in relation to height had reliable and greater discriminatory power in predicting cardiac and metabolic complications (1). The larger your waist, the more at risk you are for heart disease, stroke, hypertension diabetes and cancer.

4. Core Strength

 

Your abs are only as strong as your core. The core is a complex, biomechanic mechanism that is still being debated by kinesiologists. Keeping your hips flexible is necessary to maintain spinal alignment and back strength. If you achieve spinal alignment than you can activate your pelvic floor muscles (yes, those are fine motor muscles down there!). Finally, your diaphragm can only be toned through resistive breathing exercises. I will see you in yoga soon!

5. Diet

 

My experience is that carbohydrates and sugars will inflame the body, collecting in the abdominal area. Keeping carbohydrates around 40-50% of your diet will help reduce the belly. Also, many people unknowingly struggle with food allergies which are inflaming the abdominal area and enlarging the waist area.

Why Jesus Didn't Have Fat Abs

 

I'm certain Jesus didn't have fat abs for a few reasons:

1. Jesus was literally on the Mediterranean Diet

 

The Mediterranean Diet is a clean and healthy diet without refined sugar and trans fat. Food was scarce back then, I doubt he overate.

2. Jesus walked...EVERYWHERE!

 

 

Covering notable territory throughout his ministry,Jesus was a Rabbi and therefore made regular annual trips to Jerusalem to attend festivals and holy days. These trips aren't recorded in the Bible but can be assumed through his duties and Jesus was serious about these events because He went despite knowing people were out to kill him! Jesus got plenty of cardiovascular exercise

3. Visceral fat is a first-world problem, not an ancient-world problem.

In conclusion and once again, ABDOMINAL FAT IS DANGEROUS TO YOUR HEALTH!!! If you struggle with oversized abdominals, my first suggestion is to hit the gym and burn that belly off. You will of course have to monitor and clean your diet, seeing if you have irritants to specific food groups. Remember, ultimately it is the ratio of calories in versus calories burned that maintain your weight. Adding in your core strengthening will also help reduce your waist size. Talk with your doctor about a lipid profile as well. Getting into those skinny jeans just might save your life!

(1) M. Ashwell, P. Gunn, and S. Gibson, "Waist-to-Height ratio is a Better Screening Tool than Waist Circumference and BMI for Adult Cardometabolic Risk Factors: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis," Obesity Review 13 (2012): 275-286.