Are you still doing sit ups and crunches?
When you understand and feel in your own body what true core strength is, you'll never do another sit up again.
Modern life brings us many conveniences through computers and through cars. These are the 2 nearly ubiquitous experiences of modern adult (and more and more, child) life. Both create what's come to be known as "desk hunch" - shortened hamstrings, psoas, head forward posture, with a coincident loss of the curves of the spine, space for breathing and even, over time, for proper circulatory function.
You come to yoga, go to the gym, hike, run, walk, bike in part to reverse this pattern. Sitting has become, as many of you know, "the new smoking" because of this pattern.
Sit ups and crunches work in a single plane, bringing the rib cage toward to the thighs, and very few people are able to complete even a set of ten without bringing the shoulders forward and chin down. Does that shape remind you of anything? Perhaps the graphic above? Don't practice that shape!
You come to yoga to practice getting the body into shapes that make you feel great.(Check out this post on the "Power Pose" phenomenon for more on that!) And there's a reason they do: they access your true core.
Most "core" workouts target the muscles that join the front ribs to the front of the pelvis (the rectus abominus) and the ones around the sides (the obliques). These muscles are important but they're only a part of the story. And the story can be too short: you can engage, strengthen and buff out these muscles and never engage the deeper core. That's why I call them the vanity abs. Like beautiful skin, their health comes not from focusing on them and applying efforts on the surface; their health comes from paying attention to what they draw upon. In the skin's case, proper nutrition and hydration, and in the core's case, accessing the deeper, unseen and too often unfelt muscles that yoga refers to as "locks" or bandhas and the other muscles that connect to them and form functional groups. The locks aren't key locks, but rather locks like on rivers that when closed create strength (or lift) further upstream.
The pelvic floor is known in yoga as the "root lock" (mula band), the respiratory diaphragm (also a muscle) is the "flying lock" (uddiyana band) and the vocal diaphragm and muscles around it, jalandara band. The first two are our concern for this article. The respiratory diaphragm is actually part of your core and the pelvic floor is actually part of breathing, and both are integral in the body knowing where it is in space and maintaining balance.
The pelvic floor and respiratory diaphragm are joined by the psoas, which originates along the front of the spine just where the respiratory diaphragm is ending and in situ, they are nearly indistinguishable. The psoas then moves diagonally down and forward to attach inside the pelvis, from where it takes off for one more trip diagonally down and inward to attach again inside the upper femur (leg bone).
This complex is what I refer to as the "c" of the core, because it makes that shape inside the body in movement. The c attaches to all the other abdominal muscles - including the vanity abs.
The result is that you cannot engage the deep core (the c) without engaging the vanity abs - but you can - and workouts often - do it the other way around.
Yoga focuses our attention and awareness on the deep core and offers a multitude of ways to engage and strengthen these deeper core structures without compromising their flexibility, which is equally as crucial as being able to access their strength.
Would you like to experience true core bliss in a class? Just come to any class this month, where our focus will be on deep core in every pose. Out of town? - no problem! Simply comment with "True Core, please!" to receive a complimentary yoga audio class you can keep and take over and over.
Workbooks for the following workshops will also be available for purchase after the workshop - comment "workbook" to be notified when these are released.
In person workshops are held at OMA from 1-3pm on the Saturdays indicated. One workshop a month is included in Unlimited Memberships (both Freedom and Committed)!