Core strength is a common term that is a batted about in the health and fitness community. It seems there are countless videos and exercise programs that promise to the strengthen the core. It may be worth asking what core strength really means. Do we want to strengthen our core, and is yoga a good way to work on the core? As it turns out, there are two unique things that yoga can bring to a focus on the core.
What is the Core?
Though there is no official definition, most regard the core as the abdomen and lower trunk. This includes abdominal muscles, the diaphragm and muscles of the lower back. Some include the pelvic region as part of the core. While the abdominal muscles, specifically, are often the focus of core exercises, it really includes a larger area.
Core work is often touted as a way to improve stability and strength. While this is true, it is only part of overall fitness. Focusing on the core should not include neglecting the other parts of the body.The best exercise may be that which includes the core as part of an overall body workout. Yoga is one example of that.
Along with the body and the mind, breath plays a central role in yoga practice. We pay special attention to the movement of the breath while doing yoga poses and when practicing pranayama, regulation of the breath. This breath awareness is one of the unique aspects of yoga that is closely related to the core. Watching the breath, we become more attuned to the movement of the diaphragm, the abdomen and the chest. We begin to gain a better understanding of the components and the subtleties of our core.
Another Kind of Core
Yoga provides another perspective on what constitutes our core. It can be more than our physical core. Often in yoga, we direct our senses and perception inward. In doing this, we take steps toward recognizing and defining our own true self – our own core being. This type of core work will not be found in any of the mass market core exercise videos.
Yoga exercises both the body and the mind, providing nourishment for the self. As yoga asanas work on all parts of the body, by using the breath, they also work on all parts of the mind and self. Yoga tones our physical core from the pelvic floor to the diaphragm and abdomen to lower back, while also strengthening our true inner core and sense of self.