When someone says the word “core” to you, what do you see? Six pack abs? A toned stomach? We tend to see the core as just the abdominal muscles -particularly the rectus abdomens, external obliques and internal obliques. But in reality, the core is far greater than just what is visible in the stomach area, and traditional yogic thinking was far too interconnected to describe the core in such isolation.
An article by Charlotte Watts in this month’s Om Yoga magazine explored the concept of the myofacia’s role in terms of the core. Myofacia is a sensory network of tissues that connects muscles, providing supportive tension throughout the body. As such, the abdominal muscles and wider structures that can be considered part of the core are all connected.
Looking deeper into the body, the psoas muscle originates from lumbar (lower back) vertebrae, runs through the pelvis and inserts at the femur, close to the hip socket, meaning that it connects the upper and lower body together. The tightness or health of the psoas greatly influences hip mobility and lower back pain, or lack thereof. Taking the concept of the core literally, the psoas really is key.
Good posture involves a lightly engaged core, but originates from the feet upwards. In mountain pose, awareness starts at the feet, with all four “corners” of the foot pressing evening into the ground, and the inner arches gently lifting. The awareness then turns towards slightly tucking the tailbone under, which in turn switches on the abdominals, before finally moving up to rolled back and lowered shoulders and a steady forward gaze. In this case the concept of the core radiates out down to the toes and up to the crown of the head.
Whilst core strength isn’t something typically attributed to yoga, a whole body awareness and engagement of key muscles is something that enables the deepening and improvement of practice. Engagement and strengthening of these tissues is something that will protect yogi’s bodies’ from injury, and ultimately creates a more well balanced body.