I always start my standing yoga sequence with a single breath and sankalpa (intention) ~ “Inhale, strength on the inside. Exhale, softness on the outside.”
Shtira sukham asanam ~ firm but calm
It’s been a long thought myth that a strong core is a result of strong abdominals. Whilst in part this is true, this descriptions falls very short of what it truly means to have a strong core.
The thing is an efficient core isn’t simply a matter of strength, it’s also about stability and mobility. In fact the image that “strong core” conjures in the mind is not even necessarily that helpful. We all know a brick wall doesn’t move and if it does, it breaks. Rigidity isn’t our aim. We don’t want just a strong core, we want a mobile core, a stable core, a flexible core. When I say flexible I don’t mean the ability to turn inside out of double over either, but the ability to be solid when we need it and fluid when we don’t.
Be firm but calm. Move from your ‘core’. Breathe from your ‘core’. Open your ‘heart’ from your ‘core’. ~ Simon Borg-Olivier
The key to a “strong” core is to find the balance within it. Firstly, an understanding of what is truly meant by the core and secondly, an appreciation for how it functions best.
The core is a picture that just keeps getting bigger depending on how deep you look. On a base level it’s the container of your torso ~ abdominals, spinal muscles, pelvic floor & diaphragm. This ‘container’ element is important as it encases the most vulnerable part of the human body. On a deeper level it’s an intricate system, interconnected, moving together and requires balance for optimal function.
“When you move one joint it affects other joints, and each movement should start from your core.” ~ Simon Borg-Olivier
It’s these elements of the container working together that ultimately create stability, mobility and strength, allowing movement of the body. In fact, all movement originates from this central core. Your leg doesn’t lift without your core’s influence, your arm doesn’t reach forward without your centre engaging in some way. Every muscle and joint plays it’s part. It is when we think about the movement of our limbs in isolation, and not in connection with the core, that we miss the bigger picture and our true strength.
It’s the function of all these elements in a balanced way that allows us to use our core most effectively, to allow us to move through space with control and strength, as well as with lightness and with ease.
The problem with functionality of the core is that as a society, we live relatively unbalanced lives. Even if we exercise regularly, eat well and include self care in our daily practice, we may still sit at a desk 8 hours a day, 7 days a week. The simple act of sitting at our desk for the majority of our week throws our body out of balance. Unfortunately there may be little we can do about our day job, but awareness of this effect on our body can influence how we treat our bodies to bring back some equilibrium.
That’s where yoga becomes a valuable tool to create balance. In yoga we focus on a well rounded practice that considers not just every part of the body, but the influence of the breath and our state of mind. These are ALL important elements when it comes to our core. Not just our physical core but the emotional core, the centre of our being.
Connect to your core and you’ll find strength. Act from your core and you’ll move mountains. ~ Gabriella Goddard
Our core space concerns not just our ability to move through space, to find strength in our standing poses, focus in our balance poses, lift in our inversion and space in our backbends. Located in connection with our sacral chakra, it is also the emotional centre of our body. Our core reacts when we are nervous, stressed or upset. We experience this when we feel butterflies in the stomach or our digestive system is off balance.
When we move from our core we move from the inside out. On a physical level, by appreciating the interconnectedness of our body. On an emotional level, by finding the balance between push & pull, effort & ease, firm & calm, yin & yang
Join me this Saturday as we delve deep into our core, exploring how to find strength & ease in both our practice and life.
“Ignite Your Core” Workshop ~ Feb 17
About the author: Andy Broadbear is a qualified yoga therapist & teacher, who specialises in pre/postnatal + women’s health. She is also co-founder of YogaMamas, a health & wellness blogger, photographer and busy mama of 3!
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