What Do You Store in Your Core?

Jill Miller by Jill Miller | July 24th, 2012 | 13 Comments
topic: Fitness, Personal Growth, Yoga

Core MassageWhen I was an 18-year-old yogini, I was also an active bulimic. I was in college studying dance, training to be a shiatsu therapist (Japanese pressure point massage), making sandwiches and slicing salami at Jimmy John’s Deli, racing around Chicago learning yoga, and using food to self-medicate.

During that time, I remember never feeling connected to my core, my abdominal muscles. My Pilates teacher was always giving me corrections that I could not embody. In dance class, I was never able to find balance in my turns or jumps, and I would often duck out of class in frustration. Then I would become even angrier with myself because I was a quitter! This would inevitably lead to a binge and purge.

Getting in touch with my core through touch

One day, I confessed to my yoga teacher that I was bulimic and that I had a hard time feeling my abdominal muscles. She handed me a bean bag shaped like a large hamburger bun and told me to place it on my abdomen, lay on top of it and breathe into my belly. It was agony. I had so much tension, discomfort and bizarre pain. And then it came — the grief. That bean bag tapped into a mother lode of suppressed rage and sorrow that I’d been storing in my gut for years.

Back in my dorm room, I rolled up a towel into the shape of the hamburger bun and began laying on it every day, moving the towel from tender spot to tender spot on my core until I no longer felt pain or resistance. It worked! And so did I. I made progress in my healing, found a therapist and began treating my body with respect — which resulted in other people respecting me more, too. I soon fell in love for the first time in my life, and my bulimia completely evaporated by the time I was 20.

Have a ball reshaping your core

Twenty years later, I have innovated on the old “towel burger” prop and now use a kinder and gentler squishy air-filled ball. I can tell you from experience, this process of self-abdominal massage is not just an excellent self-treatment for emotional wounds, but also helps with scar tissue from abdominal surgeries.

According to my colleague, Kelly Starrett, DPT, this process “should be a first stop for anyone with back pain, post-abdominal surgery, post-partum depression, etc.”

In this video, Kelly and I discuss how the layers of the abdomen can become adhered, full of tension, and ultimately unresponsive to physical training. That is exactly what had happened to me in my early yogini/dancer/bulimic days. Using the bean bag/towel/squishy ball has freed up all of the internal tensions, and I now have the suppleness and fluidity to do crazy stuff with my core, like the lateral abdominal churning move called nauli kriya (pictured below).

Uncork your core, free your mind

Nauli Kriya

No special effects here: This is lateral abdominal churning, aka: nauli kriya

If you have been living with physical or emotional scars in your core, tenderly dig into its layers and listen to your body talk. You will be one step further on the road to recovering the vitality of these tissues. My newest DVD, Coregeous, details embodied exercises (including nauli kriya) to help you reinhabit the layers of your core and redefine your abdominals from the inside out.

If your self-image has become dependent on the size and shape of your abdomen, it is time to do something about it. I encourage you to step away from media that promises a quick fix from the outside in. What this calls for is an inside-out approach to help you refine your relationship with yourself and the layers of your body in a compassionate, respectful and honorable way. There is a way out, but it requires your willingness to want to change, remain consistent and believe that the world has a loving place for you. You are wanted, you are loved.

With love,


Practice yoga with Jill Miller on GaiamTV.com.


  1. I was wondering if a person with uterine fibroids and ovarian cysts could do this. I know that I store things in my abdomen and would like to work on them. Not sure if it is okay to do though, with my condition. Your feedback would be great–thanks!!

    Melanie | July 25th, 2012 | Comment Permalink
  2. The squishy ball abdominal massage is one of my favorite moves to practice and teach in Yoga Tune Up® class – and my students ask for it again and again! In fact, I taught it this morning, and after class an amazed student commented that he could still feel the ‘imprint’ of the ball when he sat up. So few of us find any kind of massage or stretch for the tissues of the abdomen and this is a compassionate and effective technique.

    Sarah Court | July 25th, 2012 | Comment Permalink
  3. Hi Melanie, I would definitely run this question (along with the image of me on the squishy ball) by your Medical Advisor. As every case of fibroids cysts is different. Belly Blessings! Jill

    Jill Miller | July 27th, 2012 | Comment Permalink
  4. Is there a specific ball you would recommend for this and/or somewhere to find more information on it? As someone who has struggled with an ED and future therapist, I would love to give it a try myself and possibly be able to recommend it to my clients. Thanks! :)

    B | August 7th, 2012 | Comment Permalink
  5. This is fascinating to me. I am almost 12 weeks postpartum with my 3rd child & have diastasis recti. Would this exercise be safe for me?

    Beth | August 7th, 2012 | Comment Permalink
  6. Hi B,
    The “squishy air-filled ball” I refer to is included in a hot-link in the blog above, Here is the direct link to the ball found on SPRI.com http://www.spri.com/Item.aspx?ItemID=641
    I hope you find the process intriguing, healing and helpful.

    Jill Miller | August 7th, 2012 | Comment Permalink
  7. Hi Beth,
    Diastasis recti can sometimes resolve itself within 6 months or so…in general, you don’t want to do movements that would potentially spread the rectus apart anymore at this time….I would definitely concentrate on movements that draw the belly in towards the spine as well as in towards your waist. Check with your doctor or a reliable physical therapist in your area about what moves are safest for your body at this time. Know that your abdomen is unique, and it would be safest to have a customized program tailored for your specific needs.

    Belly Blessings!

    Jill Miller | August 8th, 2012 | Comment Permalink
  8. Hi Jill,

    Just ordered one- thank you so much!


    B | August 8th, 2012 | Comment Permalink
  9. Ouch!!! That is really painful! Any other suggestions for getting to more of the emotional side of the pain (the physical pain is definitely present!)?

    Thank you,

    B | August 13th, 2012 | Comment Permalink
  10. If i feel i may have an abdominal aortic anuerysm due to the heavy pulsing in my stomach above my navel and extreme tenderness when i lie on my stomach where the pulsing is, would this squishy ball method help or hurt me while im waiting to see a doctor?

    Thank you (;

    natalie | February 19th, 2013 | Comment Permalink
  11. Natalie, please seek medical help immediately. Blogs are never a substitute for the expertise of a medical professional who supervises your health.

    Jill Miller | February 20th, 2013 | Comment Permalink
  12. Wow! Awesome article

    Louise | March 28th, 2013 | Comment Permalink
  13. Very nice keep on sharing like this.

    Massage Post Natal | August 22nd, 2013 | Comment Permalink

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