Most people are unaware that we have a “second” brain, located in our gut. Yet how many times have we heard the admonition, “Trust your gut?”
There is good reason for this. Known as the enteric nervous system (ENS), this second brain is part of the autonomic nervous system. ENS reacts to emotions, receives and sends impulses, and records experiences. It doesn’t have thoughts like our brains, yet the ENS can affect our moods and our thoughts.
Sheaths of neurons are embedded in the alimentary canal. They run some nine meters end-to-end from the esophagus to the anus. There are more neurons in the alimentary canal as part of the ENS than in the brain or the spinal cord. Wow! Who would have ever guessed?
Most of the ENS work is done in the digestive process, yet it has also been tied to abdominal epilepsy and abdominal migraines, and most recently, research as being one of the causes of autism.
Our center of gravity, the hara, lies just below the navel. We talk about “listening to our gut” and living our authenticity” from our core.
The good news is that the belly is an important center of energy and of consciousness. In yoga and in Buddhism, many of thedevas and icons have large bellies, thought to be full of prāna.
Since abdomen is a sacred space in our bodies, we would do well to stop being judgmental about how it appears and shift to respecting how it feels. Now that sounds good to me.