As I am preparing for a new online Beginner’s Yoga course I ponder the question yet again:
How do I best explain the concept of Core muscles?
Most people who are physically active seem to have heard about them. Many have an idea that they are somewhere ‘down there’. Most people think they ‘don’t have enough of them’..
How about it? Have you got them and use them?
No, because in order to get from lying to standing on both feet we need to use them if we are to use the body safely and efficiently. As a child’s head is quite heavy compared to the lower body the balancing act of a human is quite a feat to begin with and the necessary muscles and bones develop as needed.
In these early years the body is also used as designed: lots of movement, lots of variation, plenty of rest as needed.
As soon as sitting begins to be the most dominant position we change the healthy use of the skeleton.
I encourage you to look around (when you next go out or watch a film) to make your own judgement on the posture of young and grown adults.
What has happened? After sitting for extensive periods of time our bodies begin to use muscles in ways that are not the same as originally designed and practiced by the small child. Sitting for hours at a time or on unsuitable chairs tires the postural muscles. Other structures or muscles take over from the well aligned and balanced spine and the muscles surrounding it. The pelvis is an integral part of the upright human posture and the spine is held and moved from this foundation.
The good news is we can re-train these muscles. As they affect posture and balance we prime new students to regularly ‘engage the core’ muscles. It takes a while for this to become first nature again. Safer and a more satisfying practice are a result of using these muscles regularly.
Improved posture reduces aches; increases confidence; eases breathing; reduces stress.
Will using them give you a six-pack or slimmer waist? It definitely is a beginning step. To achieve those goals you want to exercise the muscles around the trunk a lot plus reducing the amount of fatty tissue hiding your abdominal muscles.
So, yes it is great to retrain core muscles. They are an essential part of safe Yoga practice and body use in general. They also form part of a healthy posture. We’ve all got them, let’s switch them on regularly.
When anxiety becomes a lasting feature of our day it changes our behaviour and the way we think and feel.
Very often we are not even aware that something has changed in us until people close to us show their concerns repeatedly.
Statistically women are diagnosed more often suffering from the disorder. But men are not as ready to admit that something is wrong and may carry on without seeking help.
Of course the seriousness of an attack can vary considerably. It came as a surprise to myself to experience a full blown panic attack one day. Struggling with the sensations for a few minutes I finally admitted to myself that this was a heart attack. With as much dignity as I could muster I apologised to the bystanders for lying down. Help was offered and after fifteen minutes I felt well enough to drive home.
There are many people who specialise in helping us to overcome this debilitating condition.
As always not every technique and method work for everyone.
I found reassurance in learning that these attacks are like ‘false alarms’. Knowing that my heart was tested and well and that the attack would pass added to my confidence.
Nevertheless: once sensations of breathlessness, shaking and hot and cold sensations were taking my body over I could easily let myself indulge in the state and have it take over. It took practice to stop and force myself to look it in the eye. I needed to stop what I was doing and observe these uncomfortable sensations.
Breathing can easily get out of hand but we know that over-breathing worsens the situation. I learned to relax the chest, neck, shoulders while being mindful of what was going on.
In fact the feelings of anxiety could become quite strong during Yoga practice. In the safety of my yoga mat I followed the principles of ‘being in the moment/now’ and used the relaxed breath to connect with body parts and emotions and thoughts.
I learned to ‘smile’ mentally at all the crazy going-ons inside of me.
Becoming the master of myself again meant I could use the same techniques in other scenarios during the day.
Since I had become aware of the ‘problems’ behind the attacks it proved impossible to not address these.
Doing this and repeating the effort of being in the moment, observing calmly and smiling in the knowledge that I am the master of myself meant the condition petered out.
I cannot claim to know THE way to be anxiety free. But I do know that a regular yoga practice can be a major help in getting there.
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Hello I'm Michael Cordel. My love for nature supports my interest in helping others rediscover their connection to Yoga and the Earth. Practising Yoga outdoors is especially useful to centre us, to anchor our mind and bring space into ourselves.