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Did Yogis Know About ‘Mummy Tummy’ Exercise Centuries Ago?

Yoga used to be a men’s only club. But did it inspire an exercise that’s helpful for women trying to combat “mummy tummy”?

“There is nothing new in the world except the history you do not know.”

-Harry S. Truman

Earlier this week, NPR published a story about how women can fix their “mommy pooch” — you know, that soft belly many moms retain after having a baby.

The story garnered hundreds of comments and emails. Many readers wanted to learn more about the new exercise. And one sharp reader pointed out that the exercise might not be as new as we think.

“Reminds me of Kapalabhati breathing exercises in yoga,” Hemakshi Adke, of Portland, Oregon, wrote in an email. “When I do them regularly, it does help.”

Here at Goats and Soda we are intrigued: Did yogis hold the key to mommy pooch centuries ago?

Let’s start off with a little yoga history.

Kapalabhathi is a technique described in the classic 15th-century yoga text Hatha Yoga Pradīpikā, says James Birch, a historian of the Haṭhayoga project at SOAS London University. The term comes from two words in Sanskrit: kapala, which means skull, and bhati, which means light.

Back then, Kapalabhathi had one major purpose: To clear out congestion from the sinuses, lungs and throat, Birch says.

“It will reduce or alleviate excessive kapha dosha,” Birch says, “which is probably phlegm.”

Reducing phlegm isn’t likely to help…

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