In talking about “core work” it is important to make clear that the human core includes far more than the abdominal muscles. Anatomically speaking, the core is composed of the abdominals, iliopsoas, the erectors, quadratus lumborum, the gluteals, and pelvic floor. Energetically speaking, all of the chakras, or primary wheels of energy, reside in the core, radiating along Sushumna Nadi, the central energetic current of the body. When all of these aspects are balanced and strong, one automatically finds ease and effortlessness in movement.
So lets sink beneath the superficial tissues in the abdomen and deeper into the true heart of the core. Imagine the limbs as free flowing attachments, firmly rooted in the joints as they gracefully extend from the trunk in the same way that the branches of a tree automatically move in harmony and balance with the whole, light and free of stress or strain. For us, moving from the core starts in the pelvis, just in front of the sacrum, where our true center of gravity and connection to the material world resides. Taoist practices such as Tai Chi and Qi Gong also emphasize this energy center, referring to it as the dantian rather than the sacral chakra, Svadhisthana, that we talk about in yoga. In an anatomically neutral position, the pelvic bowl can take the weight of gravity off your shoulders and stabilize the connection between body and earth. From this initial awareness and sensation of heaviness in the pelvis, the base of the core is established and energy can then be drawn up from the earth to uplift the heart and crown.
From here, the breath is the vehicle for feeling into the uplifting energy of the core. Develop the feeling of lightness in the lungs and ribcage, watching the ribs expand in all 360 degrees like a balloon. Keep this feeling of lightness in the chest as you exhale and squeeze the lower ribcage and belly button in towards the spine. Continue cultivating the feeling of lightness in the chest with each inhale, and heaviness throughout the torso and pelvis as you exhale. Imagine the pelvis and ribcage expanding away from each other with each breath so the torso can extend to its fullest expression. When this sense of expansion is realized from within the core, it can then transcend into the limbs. The arms too can now float high with ease as the legs remain anchored to the earth.
In this way, we can learn to navigate space in a way that works harmoniously with the force of gravity. Once this alignment is established, sustainable strength can be built. If this doesn’t come natural to you at first, it’s okay. It takes time and extended practice to attain and maintain cohesion between body, mind, and environment. I invite you to join me in this core based practice every Sunday evening from 7:30-9:00pm at Holistic Yoga School. The first Sunday of each month will include live music by Dave Horrocks.