This blog entry is a summary of the YouTube video “Corsets and your Organs” which you can watch here.
Nearly every day I receive a comment on one of my videos along the lines of this:
“DON’T YOU KNOW THAT CORSETS MOVE YOUR ORGANS?!!? WOMEN IN THE PAST HAVE DIED FROM HAVING THEIR INNARDS CRUSHED BY CORSETS!!!!”
Any of you who think this is true, I challenge you to bend over and touch your toes. Or laugh, or cough, or go poo. Do it, right now.
You just made your organs move around. Perhaps not to the extent that a corset moves them, but they moved nonetheless. The organs in your abdominal cavity are attached to eachother with a membrane called the peritoneum, which keep them from floating all over the place – however, your organs are not entirely cemented in place; they are still somewhat flexible. Additionally, no two bodies are exactly the same – there is natural slight variation in the size and the position of organs in each person. The diagrams you see in anatomy textbooks are simply average representations. For some interesting cases of unusual organ placement, look up situs inversus (mirrored internal organs) and dextrocardia (a condition where the heart is on the right side of the chest).
Now let’s look at some examples where organs are temporarily and dramatically moved around:
Think of a pregnant woman and how her organs are pressed and squeezed. The bladder gets squished down, the kidneys get squished back, the stomach and liver get pushed up. However, this occurs gradually over several months so the body has time to adapt to the change. Corseting is similar – you don’t put on a corset for the first time and reduce 10 inches, you start with 1-2 inch reduction and work your way up to your goal over many months or years.
In the practice of hatha yoga, Nauli is a move where the organs are moved up into the ribcage and “massaged” using one’s own abdominal muscles. Although this move may take some time to perfect, it is an impressive example of how the organs can move far out of place in only seconds or minutes. This is also completely safe. (Note: I can’t perform Nauli in its entirety, but prior to starting corset training I did learn how to perform “vacuum stomach” which is the first step to Nauli. It involves using the negative pressure in your lungs to push your intestines up into your ribcage.).
So, which organs move when you corset?
Basically, the organs that can be moved are those in the peritoneal cavity: stomach, much of the intestine, the liver and the spleen.
One great advantage is that the stomach and large intestine are mostly hollow organs which flatten easily with little to no damage. The trick to this is keeping your meals small and frequent while you’re corseting.
The liver is one of the largest organs in the body and is essential for life as it aids in digestion (production of bile), metabolism (storage of glycogen and fat) and detoxification of the body. Fortunately, it is also one of the only organs in your body that can regenerate – it can heal itself and grow larger and additional lobes. When autopsies are performed on tall, slim people with naturally small waists, some of these people are found to have vertically-stacked liver lobes instead of the “textbook” horizontally stacked liver.
The spleen is part of the lymphatic system – it sweeps out the waste in your body and holds antibodies which fight foreign objects to keep you healthy. Like tonsils, you can live if you have your spleen removed (but because your lymph nodes hold “memories” of your immune system, you may get colds or other infections more often).
Note: there is now MRI evidence of how the organs are affected, see this article for more details!
The organs less affected/not affected by corseting
The organs less affected are those in the retroperitoneal cavity (kidneys, adrenals, most of the pancreas, some parts of the colon). This is because these organs are outside of the basic abdominal cavity and they are more cemented in place than the above mentioned organs. Additionally, a well-constructed corset tends to push in on the front and sides of the waist primarily, whereas the back of the torso must preserve its shape due to the spine. Since the kidneys, adrenals, part of the pancreas and colon are all located in the back of the torso, then they will receive less direct pressure from the corset.
The pericardial organs (heart and major blood vessels) are likely not moved at all by corseting. There were some stories of hearts being “pushed up into girls’ necks” and other horror stories but many of these are likely rumours. Here is an X-ray of Cathie Jung’s torso while she’s wearing her corset at a closed measurement of 15 inches.
She currently holds the Guinness World Record for the smallest corseted waist; almost halving her original natural waist over several decades. If she can reduce her waist over a foot and not have her heart squish up into her collarbone, then chances are you can wear a corset at a modest reduction of 4 inches without much injury to your heart.
Next time we’ll discuss how corseting affects your breathing.
Lucy’s Little Life Lesson: Slow and steady wins the race, and also prevents corset-related injuries.
*Please note that this article is strictly my opinion and provided for information purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of a medical doctor. Please talk to your doctor if you’d like to start wearing a corset.*