- January 21, 2017
Core strength in the last ten years has become increasingly confusing and confused. From mainstream pilates to cardio videos and now to the science of core strength through physiotherapy. As popular media controls our aesthetic beliefs about bodies more and more, its hard to separate from the idea that a six-pack equates to strength. We are a culture with strange breathing habits, poor spinal control and chronic belly sucking-in tendencies. In this age of stress, lack of natural movement and body image issues, where do we even start?
I grew up in yoga and strength training under the impression that my core always had to be stronger. The idea that every movement I couldn’t achieve was just a few steps away, and my abs were holding me back. I see this a lot in my teaching, especially teaching advanced movements like handstands. It wasn’t until someone put some pressure on my abs that I realized just how tight they were. Then I started to think about everything else happening in my core including my menstrual cramps and previously poor digestion. I began to question my core practice, what I was trying to accomplish and what the words “core strength” even mean.
After deliberation and a year’s worth of new research on the core, I’ve come up with a new system. I start with the ability to actually relax my abs, suspend vanity and let the round shape of a natural core come over me. At least for a few moments when I’m sitting alone, wearing a sweater and really focussing on what I feel. I think before we make our cores tighter and more toned, we have to embody the ability to relax, and breathe down into the core.
Last week I put a video on core strength up in my free webinars archive, its worth checking out for some core strength exercises. It begins with the idea of relaxing the abs, breathing into the back ribs and eventually breathing into the belly and pelvis. This is something that might not feel safe for students to do in a public class, teachers, we must be sensitive to this. Because so much is tied up in the core, emotion, nervous system, fight/flight/freeze, there can be many different sensations that come up with this type of practice.
Rolling out on a squishy ball or pillow can be a nice way to begin releasing possible built up tension in the abs. This is something that I love, as long as its done at the right level of intensity. (Check out my video to learn this) From there, strength and activation exercises are essential, but this does not mean doing 50 crunches or mountain climbers. Core strength means support, the ability to support the spine, pelvis and limbs through movement. Lets change the way we think about the core, for deeper more holistic strength.