When we access or activate “the core” we are calling upon the strength of our foundation to help support us both physically and mentally.
I want to start first with the metaphorical concept of our core. What is at our core? Perhaps we could describe the core as that which is internal and unseen and when accessed, can afford us both power and grace. When our deepest sense of who we are is accessed, we meet the truth of who we are. When we investigate what is at our core, we are really asking that deep and profound question; “Who am I?”.
Both religions and corporations refer to core beliefs or core values. The core implies “the center from which everything radiates”, “the innermost source”, the “foundation”, “root” or “supporting structure”. When our spiritual or emotional core is “weak” (not by nature, but by not seeing clearly that our natural state is strong and filled with grace) we are more easily wounded psychically. We often make poor choices when we choose from a place of perceived weakness, fear or vulnerability, adding to our unhappiness. When we begin to become aware of the true, strong nature of the “center” of our being, we are able to access that strength and act in ways that support better choices, improving the quality of our life, becoming stronger emotionally.
On a physiological level, we can more fully understand the core as it relates to our extremities. If the core abdominal muscles (generally abdominals, but not limited to) are not strong, by default, we rely on our extremities- our arms, legs, shoulders- to do heavy lifting or to execute large movements and to hold ourselves steady. However the extremities are not meant for all the “heavy lifting”. Commonly, if our core is weak, our lumbar spine lacks support and we are therefore more susceptible to low back injury. Over time our posture becomes unbalanced and the cycle of feeling discomfort in our body accelerates.
The core consists of abdominal muscles that draw our belly inward as well as encase and “zip up” our spine like a supportive girdle. The abdominals allow us to flex the trunk both forward and laterally and to rotate the spine in a twisting motion. When we engage the core we move with more strength and stability, grounding the low body in standing postures, especially in a flowing Lunge. Core awareness allows us to engage the abdominals before we move into balance postures like Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose) so that we can “radiate” the arms and legs outward from our strong and supported center. In Navasana (Boat Pose) the Rectus Abdominus is strengthened. In Urdva Danurasana (Wheel Pose) we open and expand the chest, lengthening the abdominal muscles. When we contract the abdominals, we compress the organs in the abdominal cavity and it is thought to protect our lumbar spine much like an air bag protects us…