Down to the Core

Core. Core. Core. No matter what you do, your core is everything! If your stomach is in shape the rest of your body can’t help but follow.

Engaging your core properly involves a series of subtle movements and understandings. First and foremost, practice! Challenge yourself to choose (and stick with) a sequence you will do most days.  There is no shortcut to building muscle awareness. 

In yoga, the core is both an energetic and physical space of focus.  According to Desirée Rumbaugh, a senior Anusara teacher, the core "is what supports us spiritually in our lives, and physically in our yoga practice. If our core is weak, the ups and downs of life are much harder to take. A strong core makes us more resilient."  Even 5min to fire up your abs will leave you feeling more empowered physically and energetically.  It is quite literally, the center of good grit in the body. 

There are several distinct muscles groups that work together for a healthy connection to your core.   We look at an overview of each below and specific exercise for each in posts to come.

    1. Transverse abdominus (TVA).  
      Much like a waist cinching belte, this muscle chain wraps around the middle of the body from the lower ribs to the illica cress.  
  • Function.  Super important for a healthy lower back and healthy digestion (if constipation is an issue).  A healthy core helps you burn away toxins.
  • Vanity.  You can't actually narrow your hip bones but you can shrink the thickness front to back.  A strong TVA flatens the lower belly and narrows the 'depth' of your hips from the side.
    << Learn more about training your TVA >>
  • Obliques.
    A thin set of muscles on either side of the body that runs diagonally from the ribs to the rectus, forming a "V" from the front. Training this area properly feels like a corset cinching your waist from side to side
  • Function.  All about the trunk.  The obliques not only make your waist appear smaller they support all the twisting, turning movements that make your core feel healthy and supple.
  • Vanity. Waist all day.  Toned obliques make the waist look much smaller
    << Learn more about training your Obliques >>

  • Rectus abdominus.
    Like a strap the rectus abdominus runs down the center of the body from the pubic bone to the sternum
    • Function.  Posture, posture, posture.  A strong, flexible rectus abdominus adds length the to torso providing extra space to breathe and it works in concert with the obliques to allow the body to twist and turn.
    • Vanity.  Aspire to the long lines of a dancer?  This is how to do it. The goal is train this area with strength but also with breath to create length (not crunch)
      << Learn more about training your Rectus Abdominus >>

    It bears mentioning that combined with strength, yoga teaches us the core is deeply connected to breath and suppleness in the body. It should be toned and lean but not tight.  The goal isn't ripped abs but rather long, lean and toned abs.  Breath work and flexibility are just as important.  Interestingly, the 'six pack' look has as much to do with your skin density as anything else. Thinner skin makes abs much more visible giving the 6 pack illusion. Thicker skin (which ages better!) provides more coverage over the muscles making them less obvious.  

    Finally, there is no conversation about core without a mention of diet. Core exercises all day, every day will not change  the appearance of your belly without an equal focus on maintaining a healthy diet.  Those taut abs may well be there just hiding under an extra layer of tummy padding!  From our experience, core awareness is inspiring in that it combines inner and outward physical focus informing the rest of well being. A combined focus on breath, posture and better awareness of fullness all work together to create a 'magical' lightness of being inside and out.

    Useful Resources 

    1. The Asana Academy- yogi Brian Aganad is a handstand master and an engineer by training.  What does that mean?  His technical tips and detail make the impossible seem possible. Here is is guide to fixing your tummy.
    2. This yoga journal article on the mind body connect of the core is a must read. 
    3. This is a great excerpt explaining the connection of the core and the fire element. 


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