Core Strength: A Balance Between Strength and Softness
“Tighten your core”
A familiar sentence sending our awareness to our tummy muscles, which on a physical plane, we are easily connected to. Spiritually, our inner core is often elusive and imbalanced, especially when we need it most.
So often I find myself fraying at the edges and feeling helpless to sensations of exhaustion or self-pity, I lose my inner strength and power to the pulls and pushes of the outside world.
This is where we can use our yoga, because it is through our physical body that we can affect the emotional and energetic bodies.
If we explore the anatomy of our core we have first the physical – the abdominal muscles which radiate strength from the inside out. The core keeps us balanced, allows us to move through pose transitions with grace, and backbend with more confidence, it is our motor from which we drive forward. When it is weak we have pain and if it is too tight we have pain.
On an astral plane we have the Manipura Chakra or Solar Plexus. Energetically this is the seat of our will power, confidence, self-belief and strength. When it is imbalanced we second guess ourselves, we experience fear, anger and digestive issues.
In any yoga practice we can affect the core positively with the right intention and focus. Let’s have a play with Cat Cow.
Wrists directly under shoulders, knees under hips.
Begin to engage your core, pulling the belly button to the spine, more than you think you can.
Imagine you are building more and more inner strength at your core centre as you continue to pull all sides of your core in, front, sides and back.
Begin to send your breath to your chest, allowing your ribs to expand in every direction. Imagine that from this powerful core you can find softness and openness in your heart.
Now imagine you are sending that infinite and unshakable strength to the rest of your body as you reach right arm forward and left leg back. Reach in opposite directions to create a straight line of energy which radiates from your core. Repeat on the opposite side keeping the hips stable.
Now lay on your back and allow the whole body to relax. Bring your attention to the rise and fall of the belly and imagine that your core is spreading like water on the ground. Emotionally see how this feels – you are allowing yourself a rest, letting go of rigidity and cultivating self-love and self-acceptance in an area that is often constantly working to hold us together.
As we expand from these simple exercises this balance of strength and softness can be played with throughout all poses. In backbends we find a solid core to enable us to find flexibility in our chest and heart. In a balance pose we radiate a calm strength from the middle. But whenever you can, find space to breathe deeply into your belly and let go of that tension. This is the flipside of the core that we don’t nurture enough. We find power, self-love and confidence not only through strengthening our core, but also knowing when to allow it to be soft.