When you hear the word “core”, chances are the first thing that comes to mind are six-pack abs after endless abdominal crunches, yes? Interestingly, core conditioning and abdominal strengthening have recently become synonymous but your "core” is so much more than merely focusing on your abdominals alone.
With lower back pain, muscle injuries and poor posture on the rise, it's no surprise that ore strengthening is becoming increasingly popular. Core exercises are surfacing among pilates instructors, personal trainers, sports coaches, and yoga instructors such as Sadie Nardini who is known for her Core Strength Vinyasa Trainings. Even Trudie Styler, actress and wife of rock star Sting, launched her own DVD, Trudie Styler's Core Strength Pilates DVD.
The core consists of different muscles that stabilize the spine, the pelvis, and run the entire length of the torso. These muscles together provide a solid foundation for movement, allow us to stand upright and control most of our movements as we transfer our body weight to move in any and all directions. So whether you're a runner, golfer, weekend warrior or are looking for better posture strengthening your core can be beneficial for you.
It's clear that a strong core involves more than just abdominal crunches. Core strengthening:
offers support for your neck and back
reduces the risk of injury
improves muscular coordination
enhances athletic performance
tones the abdominal area
interesting workouts that challenge you in new and different ways
improves body control, balance and stability
generates power and endurance
One of the greatest appeals of strengthening your core is that anyone can participate. Core strengthening exercises usually involve full body alignment and may borrow principles on stabilization, centering, coordination, and balance from pilates. In this way, the transitional movements become functional to other activities ranging from skiing, hiking, cycling and - you guessed it - Yoga.
Core strengthening and Yoga are actually a wonderful complement one another. Core principles are functional to yoga and vice versa. While core strengthening is often a dynamic practice that focus on transitions – the movement in and out of various poses is more important than the actual poses themselves – you can be sure that if you build your core strength you will experience a greater sense of balance and ease in nearly every yoga pose you practice. Full of the spirit of yoga and mixing the principles of pilates, core strengthening offers the benefits of both practices as it incorporates the use breath, alignment, no impact, and encourages practioners to work to their edge by finding their own limits. That said, it's no surprise that core classes are often a stepping stone for people to venture into Yoga.
If you doubt yoga's power to give you first-rate abs, think again. Within the scope of a Yoga class nearly every posture - and the movements both in and out of each pose - is potentially a core strengthening exercise ranging from standing postures to twists to inversions to balancing poses; all of these different postures require and build core strength, balance and stability – all of the elements inclusive in core strengthening.
Clearly, both core strengthening and Yoga's comprehensive regimen adds up to much more than a firm, flat belly. The benefits of a strong core extend beyond the mat as it can both improve posture and reduce back pain by supporting the healthy curves of the spine. And, I would argue that a strong core adds to a strong sense of self and self-esteem. So, go slow yet steady to stretch and strengthen your entire core, not just those six-pack abs, and every yoga move will be easier. Awaken within to align your inner stance with your outer posture.
Want to learn more? Join me for Stabilize your Center: Awaken from Within, a workshop designed to help us investigate the anatomy of the core to understand how to better utilize the power of core muscles - including the breath - to access inner strength and confidence. With a focus on the physical and subtle components of core body strength and awareness, you will learn how to strengthen and integrate your core in creative, effective, lasting ways. To learn more about this workshop click the button below.