Core strength in yoga is developed from conscious awareness of two basic actions. The first is the drawstring, which engages the transverse abdominis by drawing the belly in below the navel and towards the spine. The second is the zip up, which engages the rectus abdominals by drawing the belly up under the ribs. These muscles work in conjunction with the diaphragm and pelvic floor. This action is often referred to as pulling in the bandhas and can be activated through pranayama (breath work) and asana (pose).
Engaging the core in this way protects the spine and relaxes the psoas, in turn your lumbar spine will feel more spacious, less stiff and it will help alleviate back pain. For this reason, I teach core pranayama and abdominal work at the beginning of class. Additional benefits include toned abs, improved digestion, elimination and an increase in circulation to the organs.
On a deeper level our core includes the enteric nervous system or your ‘gut brain’. The gut brain is vast, housing over 500 million neurons, and every class of neurotransmitter that is found in the brain, these include serotonin & dopamine; your feel good hormones. It houses our innate fight or flight instincts, our intuition, and our sense of identity. Working the core in yoga creates a physical sense of strength and stability, whilst allowing for the release of deep emotions. It helps us ‘digest’ and integrate our emotional experiences, it also strengthens our resilience and our ability to deal with the challenges of daily life.
Courage is the ultimate 'jewel' within the core. Learning to physically support and connect to yourself, empowers you to act in ways that are true to who you are. It gives you the ability to face your fears, take action, follow your dreams and live a truly authentic life.
Written by Janine Croft