Your core is like a Coca Cola "Blikje" or a radio antenna
If you hear the word ‘core’, what is the first thing that comes up in your mind? Probably your front belly muscles right? The core is so much more, in the teachings I had, I learned that the core is containing your (deep and front) belly muscles, your back muscles, your spine and pelvis.
The core is the part of the body which holds the lower- and upper body together. Which gives us support. If the core is out of balance, not trained well we can get pain somewhere in our body.
"Think about a radio antenna, if it's not straight up and out of balance the energy won't get through on the right way, the music will disturb. That is also how it works in our body."
If the core is not strong enough probably most of us get lower back pain and maybe some problems in the pelvis or hips. Think about for example constructors working with their body the whole day; bending over & lifting heavy materials. Or a job in which you have to stand a lot; I have a lot of flight attendants in my classes, they have to work hard to keep their balance during a flight. It’s tough for the core and a lot of them start doing Yoga or Pilates with having pain in the back,- neck,- hips or pelvis.
With the kind of work most of us do, as am I at this moment: sitting behind a desk and behind a laptop we should really take care of our body and especially the core. With training the ‘core’ in a good way we become aware of our body posture which helps in daily life.
Now you probably think you have to tighten your core the whole time to give your body support, absolutely not! It’s very important to relax the core also, especially women have the tendency to always tighten their belly muscles because they have the feeling they need to, to show a flat belly. That feeling probably already started around 16 years old. With these constant tension, you can cause pain in your body; f.e. in your Psoas (lendenspier).
"My teacher Daphne told me this nice example: think about a Coca Cola can (blikje) which is filled with carbonic fluid (koolzuur). The pressure from within makes that the can holds it’s posture. If you would give a clap with a flat hand on the can nothing will happen because the carbonic and pressure from within (inner core) gives strength. Now, if you open the can and you give a slap on it again from above, the can will get a dent (deuk) and maybe even more dents (deukjes), it will lose it’s strength. You can compare this with your spine (posture) and the deeper belly muscles and diaphragm around it which hold the body posture. If they are not trained well you will lose your posture and get dents ("deukjes", pain etc)."
In fitness classes most of the time people only give attention to train their Rectus abdominus, Erector Spinae and Latissimus Dorsi. These are the bigger muscles of the core which are not bringing us the balance and support we need (think about the can). For that we also need to train the deeper muscles like the obliques, transversus, fascia and multifidus.
In Pilates (and in my Yoga classes) we’re not only training the Rectus abdominal (six-pack muscles and visible one) but focusing more on the obliques, transversus and ligaments.
In yoga terms I speak about activating Mula & Uddiyana bandha, the energy locks which both give the stability in the core and which you need in a lot of asana’s (poses) to find the right strength and stability.
It’s import to relax your belly muscles also: just breath in to it, put one hand on your belly and breath towards your hand to soften. You can also sit in a chair and breath towards your hand at your belly and into your back against the chair.
So what can Pilates or Yoga mean for you?
Pilates is a form of movement all from the core. Every movement you make is with focus on the deeper muscles which lay in the belly, back and pelvis. Tightening the right muscles on the right time. When you have an experienced Pilates teacher he or she will guide you to make the right movements.
In the Vinyasa yoga classes I teach, I integrate core stability exercises which I also teach in Pilates. Luckily one of my teachers finds the core also this important so in many workshops and classes I go to, she inspires me to involve core stability exercises in a sequence to prepare for a peak pose. I even followed a module teacher training only about this subject.
Please do realize that not every yoga teacher or yoga direction is putting attention to the core in the way I am doing that. If you want to work with your core, find a class or a teacher who gives enough attention on this subject.
In the blog next month I will show and explain to you a few exercises you can do at home, at work or on your holiday to train your core. Until then I hope to see you in one of my classes :)!