When we speak of “the core” or “core work” in yoga, we are typically referring to a multitude of postures, however there are specific asanas that are focused around the strength and the workings of the abdominal-lumbar complex within the physical body. This complex system of muscles goes much farther in providing support for our movement than what most Western exercise enthusiasts might consider “the core”. Our true “core” is not just the six-pack abs we can see, but layers of musculature within the pelvis, the spine, both the anterior and posterior abdominal walls, and even includes the workings and the health of our internal organs. The beauty of yoga asana is that it touches all of this needed support.
I used to lift weights in college, and of course there are a myriad of benefits for this work, but I will say that within my experience, no matter how strong I might have looked from bulked-up peripheral muscles, I am stronger and feel stronger in my body and posture since doing yoga. I also remember when my aunt had her first back surgery and she was given sit-ups as one of her strengthening exercises, which frankly made me cringe. I am not sure if this is common lore anymore, but the muscles you build in sit-ups have not much to do with truly strengthening or supporting your back, and in some ways could be harmful if done with too much force or incorrect muscle intelligence. One of the biggest misunderstandings and confusions I encounter in the yoga practice of Western students is the workings of the abdomen and abdominal muscles.
Becoming more “intelligent” in our body and gaining deeper knowledge of how we move in the world is also the “core” of yoga, not just physically, but mentally and consciously as well. To just “go through the motions” may not always bring the strength we are looking for and might even strengthen old habits that aren’t serving us over time. We also have a sense in our trained “gym culture” that just by “doing” we are “developing”. Yoga does not necessarily subscribe to this idea. HOW you are doing a posture is as much, if not more so, important than WHAT posture you are doing.
During four Mondays in May (3-24), we will cover some of the HOW of many familiar poses in yoga to become more connected to and aware of your “core”. We will of course work on the specific abdominal-lumbar poses that most of us may only practice if/when our teacher tells us to, but also cover variations and approaches that are safe and available to all.
These classes do require deep work and are not for those who might be suffering from therapeutic issues within the abdomen or acute back issues. Though classes are always best done LIVE, recordings of the Monday night special series are available to registered students.