At Your Core

shutterstock138337379I recently read an interesting article about core strengthening (How Are We Still Getting It Wrong). Having worked as a personal trainer prior to being a yoga teacher I’ve spent a good number of years teaching people how to hollow out the abdominal – bringing the belly button toward the back and tucking the pelvis slightly. Yet, I do suffer from some back pain. I would say my core is pretty strong, my abs are strong, even my back muscles where I get some of the pain. Could it be that I’ve been doing (and teaching) it wrong all these years?
Maybe! For the past several weeks I’ve been focusing on bracing myself rather than hollowing the abs. Bracing is described in this article as preparing to be punched in the gut – I think we all know what that means. Literally tighten all of the muscles in your torso in preparation. It feels more like a shortening of the rib cage toward the pelvis as opposed to a curve in the pelvis. It feels very strong. I have been finding that my back pain is less when I engage this way. Now I still get some back pain (it doesn’t help that I fell up the stairs the other day and have slipped on ice and ‘caught’ myself), but it does seem to have improved. I’m going to keep at it and see how it goes for me.
What are your thoughts on engaging the core? What’s your method? I’d love to hear from you 🙂


5 Comments on “At Your Core

  1. Gosh, we’re in the same boat! I did a lot of core exercises and had pretty developed abs – but my physiotherapist made me realise that they did nothing for my posture. They just looked good. I just never managed to engage the deeper abdominal muscles. She now makes me do some Pilates exercises (very humbling for a yoga teacher, but they do work!) and my core is a lot stronger. I thought yoga can do it all but I think it makes sense to also look left and right and incorporate whatever works in our daily routine.

    • I’m glad it isn’t just me haha. It can be humbling. Yet another lesson in getting our egos out of the way huh 🙂

  2. I use exactly that method for core engagement…tightening my abdominals and feeling everything in my torso tighten… It’s something I can do lying down too which is good, as I have to lie down a lot and I don’t want to lose those core muscles to disuse…

  3. I’ve been practicing a kinder, gentler form of Iyengar Yoga for a long time and became a teacher a few years ago – graduated from the Yoga Room Berkeley – whose founding director, Donald Moyer, is a master of teaching the subtle intricacies of asana. And the other long time wizard there is Mary Lou Weprin; she is amazing at careful preparation. Core doesn’t come up as a subject per se – but just today, she talked again about the equilibrium we need to discover in the low back – allowing the lumbar curve to be there. Tightening isn’t a word that comes up often – but at age 66, I’m doing well with my practice and feel that their approach is what has kept me well!

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