This is a really fascinating article on the abdomen muscles! An interesting perspective to chew on. Check it out: Redefining Great Abs by Yoga Journal.
“”There’s a quagmire of confusion about the abdominals,” says Jean Couch, yoga teacher, author of The Runner’s Yoga Book (Rodmell, 1992), and owner and director of the Balance Center in Palo Alto, California. The central problem, she says, “is that people think they should hold their stomachs in, because the shape our society values as healthy and attractive is abnormally thin and held.” Since most people hold a low amount of tension in their abdominals all the time, she says, “they’re unable to build abdominal strength, because you can never, ever strengthen a tense muscle. The only way you can strengthen your abs is to continually relax them–then you can exercise them as much as you want.”
“…The emotional importance of the abdominal region, Ana Forrest, yoga teacher and owner of the Forrest Yoga Circle in Santa Monica, California. “Some of our abdominal problems are related to lack of skillfulness in dealing with our gut feelings,” she says, adding that “whatever happens on the mat is a paradigm for our lives. If we’re not good at connecting with our center, perhaps we’re not good at taking a stand for our truth and ourselves.”
“Many fitness enthusiasts focus on developing the “six-pack” muscle, or rectus abdominis, which is actually a “10-pack” that runs from the pubic bone to the breastbone. “A straplike muscle designed for smooth, long movement, its main purpose is to raise your body from bed each morning,” Seabourne explains. “The rectus is the most superficial and visible of four abdominal muscle groups that work synergistically.”
The internal and external obliques, on the sides of the torso, rotate and bend the torso. “Your obliques are used in almost every activity,” Seabourne says. Twisting is the key to training them.
The deepest layer is the transversus abdominis, which is located horizontally underneath the rectus abdominis and the obliques. One of the few muscles with fibers that run from side to side, the transversus generally functions along with the autonomic nervous system to flatten the stomach in “bearing-down” activities, such as childbirth and defecation, and is activated in expelling actions, such as coughing and vomiting.
Yoga is excellent for building healthy abdominals, Seabourne says, because it involves moving the body in various directions and angles through postures requiring stability and balance–often in an unusual relationship to gravity. “The key is flexible strength, and that’s what yoga develops,” he explains. “Too many people still think ab training is doing crunches, which does nothing for flexibility. If you just train for strength, your muscles can actually shorten. And if you train in only one direction, you’re limiting your range of motion.” “