Yoga poses that address all layers of core musculature, also inadvertently nourish the truer and deeper source of core wellness, the omentum. What is the omentum, and why should you care? The omentum is a flat layer of adipose tissue that floats on the surface of much of the small and large intestines, and it is important because it may save your life someday. In fact, it may have already done so many times over without your ever knowing.
The omentum is like a large snuggly blanket of immune cells for your organs. It stores fat, regulates the immune system and helps tissue regenerate. The special properties of the omentum are not a new discovery. The ancient Egyptians assessed and catalogued dead bodies by omentum variation. The Greeks thought it warmed the intestines because gladiators who lost it in battle injuries reported always feeling cold. A 1910 a British surgeon even called it the policeman of the abdomen.
I think of it as more of a nurturing feminine tissue than a policeman, more like the Florence Nightingale of the abdomen. Florence comes to mind because this sheath of adipose tissue actually moves around the abdomen to encircle any organ that is infected or inflamed. It does this to stop the spread of the inflammation, send immune cells to fight the
problem, regenerate damaged tissue, and as if that weren’t enough, also simultaneously absorb contaminants for later removal.
In addition to healing the omentum is also a profoundly nourishing tissue, exemplified by its suitability as a implantation place for organ cells to regrow into organs. During surgery this tissue is sometimes used to help healing happen in other parts of the body, even as far removed as the surface of the brain!
What does all this have to do with yoga? Well, a lot. Peristalsis, diaphragm movement, and fluid flow all assist omentum movement as it wanders around the abdomen protecting and healing as needed. Yoga breathing and asana impact all three of these things. The following yoga practices will help you maintain the health of your core from the top layer of muscles, all the way down to the tissues and organs they protect.
Yoga breathing involves careful posture, sitting fully upright, with the natural curves of the spine intact. This allows space for the lungs to fill completely and the diaphragm to move deeply downward. This downward movement squeezes the fluid and lymph nodes that are plentiful in the omentum, allowing the body to more effectively heal and remove toxins. Deep compressions into the abdominal cavity also help the omentum move toward the tissues that need immune assistance.
Twists activate the deeper muscle layers of the core, and wring out the omentum, wringing out old lymph and blood, getting rid of toxins, and preparing space for fresh new blood to pour into.
Side bends engage deep core muscles, and compress one side of the torso while stretching out the other. This forces the diaphragm to push down in new areas, and results in many of the benefits listed above for twists. They also stretch the intercostals, making deeper fuller breaths easier to attain.
Core compression poses once again press lymph, blood and other fluids out of the organs and tissues for deep flushing, and digestive system awakening. The intestines are important for the absorption of nutrients and removal of toxins.
Extension poses pull all the tissues, and organs of the core to lengthen the muscles of the front body, and tone back body muscles. This is important because sitting, and poor posture makes the muscles of the core and chest too short, and the muscles of the back long, and weak. Not only does this impact wellness of the whole musculoskeletal system, but also impedes diaphragm movement, breathing and digestive processes.
Counter pose flows help to cleanse by repeatedly squeezing out old fluid and creating space for fresh new fluid to move in. You can do this by repeatedly alternating back and forward bends, side to side bends, or twist directions. This is a toxin clearing process and also allows for fresh new blood to flow in. As you move through your yoga practice the deep breaths and concentration reduce the stress hormones remaining in your blood from previous stressors. These are slowly replaced by chemical signals that trigger calm in the nervous system. This is the blood that you want your cells completely immersed in as you move into the rest of your day feeling great and having restored your omentum momemtum!
Source for the omentum history and function described above: Valerio Di Nicolas’s August 8th, 2019 article entitled: Omentum a powerful biological source in regenerative surgery. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31453273/