One of my team members suggested I do a blog post on the Japanese towel method for losing belly fat and does it work? I researched it and put a twist on it to customize for different body types.
What is the Japanese Towel Method?
Look at the picture below. Lie on your back with a rolled up towel just under your navel with your legs straight, your toes touching and lying with your arms above your head and palms down(I had palms up for pictures-oops!) – your pinkies must also touch each other. According to a Japanese physician named Toshiki Fukutsudzi, this exercise helps you to improve your posture and, after some time of training, lose weight due to the skeleton correction it causes. Do this for 5 minutes. The idea is that it helps to stretch your spine which can help your posture which in turn may help with digestion, nerve stimulation and reduce back pain.
Although this might work for some it doesn’t work for all which is why I’m going to give you my take and customization on this method. The reason we do functional movement screens before we see our clients is to customize based on your body. What is your normal standing posture? Do you have a normal curve in your low back, S-Curve/Sway back, Flat Back or elevated/rotated hip? You must think about this before you just jump right in on some magazine suggested workout or a workout your friend swears by.
Stand in the mirror and look to see what type of posture you have or ask a friend or family member.
The picture below on top left is the Japanese towel method. When I took this picture it actually was hurting my back. I have S-posture which means my hips are tilted forward in anterior tilt. We have many clients with S-Posture and the Extreme Flat Back posture so have to adjust exercises as necessary to counter this. If you need more curve in your back (Flat back) then try the towel or smaller foam roller, exercise disc cushion or a pillow directly under your navel. If you have S-posture you may wish to try placing the foam roller, yoga block or rolled up towel under your sacrum. This will help you also lengthen your hip flexors which are tightened when your hips are rotated in anterior tilt.
Think about this…All our organs and limbs, including the intestine and stomach, connect to the brain via the vertebral column so it is true that misalignment of the bones, reflected in bad posture, can mean that nerve pathways are constricted.The part of the spine between the ribs and the small of your back is where the intestine nerves are connected, so if you slouch or push your pelvis too far back, it may result in digestion issues, such as constipation, bloating, gas and acid reflux. While constipation and bloating make your belly appear bigger, it is not fat; it’s just the waste that is not being eliminated.You should be eliminating 2-3 times per day. Of course there may be all kinds of reasons your belly is bigger than you want, maybe food allergies you haven’t considered, allergy to alcohol, wheat or daily or even something as common as onions that may be hidden in some of your foods, eating fruit when your other food isn’t completely digested. I digress..I just can’t help myself to talk about nutrition when we talk about smaller bellies.
Back to the Towel method…The exercise introduced by Fukutsudzi implies lying on a rolled towel for five minutes three times a day. What???? 3 times a day that’s a lot more than most people may be willing to do including me and I exercise a lot. Well as with anything creating a habit and changing behaviors takes commitment so do what you are willing to do and you will get the results you have put into your efforts. Maybe start with a minute and work up to 3-5 minutes 1-2 times per day. At least having an awareness and going in the direction of correction will lead you down the path of better digestion and posture.
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Tonya Tittle, M.S., ACSM
Owner/Dir. of Training, Energy Fitness (established 2002)
ACSM, TPI Level 1 Certified, Rock Tape, Rock Pods (cupping therapy), Rock Tape Blades & Blades Advanced
FMT Basic, Metagenics FLT
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