The core exercises that I am about to present to you will have an unusual "twist."
'Nothing is so powerful as an insight into human nature . . . what compulsions drive a man, what instincts dominate his action . . . if you know these things about a man you can touch him at the core of his being.' ~ William Bernbach
Throughout my website you hear me talk about the relationship between the physical world and the world of the heart and soul. I love the use of the physical metaphor to describe the inner human condition. Understanding "core" exercises from this perspective will be a new journey for you, perhaps.
However, to understand truly, the concept of metaphors, you will need to look deeper. The metaphors I will be using are not only meant to be merely metaphors, but a description of a deeper truth. Learning about core exercises and the metaphors surrounding your core are important for understanding aspects of yourself.
I like to use the phrase, "the core of my being" a lot. While I understand the term chakra and dan tian, they just don’t resonate with me. The same is true for me with yoga. While I love the yoga poses, learning their Sanskrit names puts me off.
The Eastern practices pull me, but since I am learning about the Christian contemplative practice that draws Eastern and Western philosophy together, I often choose to use more neutral language. It is my hope that regardless of your philosophy that you will understand my message and use it for individual meaning for health and healing in your life.
Before we begin our core exercises for the body-mind-soul, a little bit of physiologic background is necessary.
I have discussed the core muscles many times in my web articles. All of my Bosu balance trainer pages describe core workouts that utilize balance. All the exercises on the Bosu balance trainer are essentially core exercises, just like in yoga.
Traditionally we think of the core as our abdominal muscles. Indeed, the core muscles definitely include the abdominals. But the core is much more, therefore, core exercises should involve much more than just the abdominals.
Yoga, Pilates and other body-mind disciplines include the groin muscles in the core muscles. This is because the hip adductor muscles (those that bring the legs together) are very important in the stability of the hip joint. Without a stable hip joint, the flowing and deeper movements of yoga would be impossible. This is why yoga classes focus so much on hip opening exercises. I believe this part of the core is very important as well and have written about foam roller exercises for the hip muscles that focus on exercises to open the hip.
A wider view of the core muscles from most experts is that any muscle that attaches to the trunk is part of the core. This would include all the muscles of the thighs and the pelvic floor that attach to the hip and the lower back. Additionally, any muscle that attaches to the ribs, the back or the shoulder, are also included in the core muscles. A list of muscles included in the upper core would be the abdominals, the latissimus dorsi, the neck and all muscles of the upper arms and shoulder girdle.
Essentially, only the most distal muscles in the lower legs, the lower arms and the face and head, would NOT be included in the core muscles! So almost any exercises that involve the trunk would be core exercises!
As you can see, the core muscles are connected to almost all other muscles and are involved in all aspects of your moving being! Therefore, it is paramount that you do core exercises. Core training should be a part of everyone’s practice.
We now may begin to see that core exercises that go deeper than the physical are an integral part of body-mind-soul healing. Because just like your physical core is connected to everything that moves your body, your spiritual core is connected to everything in your life.
It is often thought that strengthening the abdominal muscles will help heal chronic lower back pain. This is according to the traditional view of what constitutes the core.
It is possible that this is not so. Many people do not get rid of chronic back pain by doing an endless amount of crunches. An evenly strengthened or balanced body is what protects the back. Creating a fit body through natural movements instead of doing 50 crunches may be more important.
According to Gray Cook, physical therapist and orthopedic clinical specialist, in Men’s Journal, October 09 issue, Vol. 18, No. 9 "Ditch the Ab Workout," we engage our core for everything, every body movement, 'when we so much as take a step, turn our heads or simply blink.'
Cook says that because the use of the core muscles of the abdomen consists of a neuromuscular event, strong abdominal muscles are a result of timing, alignment and poise.
Graceful, balanced movements that engage the core are a result of functional movement exercises – or those exercises that work the whole body evenly. By improving your grace and balance, you improve your core and prevent injury.
You may also view my video for the Yoga Plow Pose Roll Down to learn another simple functional movement for strengthening your core, in addition to all the previous references I mentioned.
Physically, the core of my being is in the center of my body, just
below my naval. In Buddhism it is known as the Dan Tian. Dan Tian, in
Chinese, means "elixir field" and is a place to store energy. In yoga, this energy is focused in the 3rd chakra and is considered the fiery powerhouse of the Self.
Indeed, in the Christian West, while we do not attach a spiritual word for this physical center, we know that it is the center of gravity for the body. Our center of gravity actually changes with each movement as any practitioner of yoga knows. The center of gravity is also slightly different from person to person, male and female, tall and short.
If I think of the core of my being, as being my physical center of gravity, it is constantly in motion with each step I take and every activity I do. I like this life metaphor very much!
To find my "center" through the course of my day takes ongoing effort, balance and practice. Just like my constantly moving physical center, my emotional and spiritual centers move as well. Finding my ongoing balance, each and every day is very difficult indeed, if I approach the center of my being in this manner!
To be centered spiritually is to be conscious of your true nature, your true self, or your soul. It is a conscious turning to an ego-less state where your identity as a man or woman, engineer, teacher, doctor or other profession, athlete or housewife is set aside.
The "core of my being" is that universal part in me and in all of us, that connects us with everything and everyone else. It is where we find God. It is the "energy" center that if we regularly turn to for renewal that we will find Love, Peace, Calm and Hope.
'I believe that the very purpose of life is to be happy. From the very core of our being, we desire contentment. In my own limited experience I have found that the more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well-being. Cultivating a close, warmhearted feeling for others automatically puts the mind at ease. It helps remove whatever fears or insecurities we may have and gives us the strength to cope with any obstacles we encounter. It is the principal source of success in life. Since we are not solely material creatures, it is a mistake to place all our hopes for happiness on external development alone. The key is to develop inner peace.' ~ Dalai Lama (1989 Nobel Peace Prize, b. 1935)
Looking inward is what I am referring to, when I speak of body-mind-soul core exercises. At the core of your being is the real you waiting to re-connect. In stillness and silence is where you will find the real you. If you want to get to know God, get to know yourself! In quiet reflection and contemplation is where you will find your true self and find God.
Developing and maintaining your physical core fitness is so important for you as you age. Similarly, without an inward-looking spiritual practice of your own you cannot have soul fitness.
This is why I love yoga, intuitive movement and meditative movements of all types. It helps me with all three aspects of health. The power of information that is within you, within your physical body and spiritual body, waiting to be known can bring you great healing.
Core fitness through core exercises of the body-mind-soul can bring you the highest level of health. My website is full of helpful information, wrapped up in the physical metaphor to get you on your journey to healing. You can also subscribe to my Body Moments monthly newsletter for meditative movements to help you go inward. It is absolutely free.
Learn how to do meditation and contemplative prayer. Fill you life with thought-provoking books to stimulate you and help you on your body-mind-soul journey.
May you begin your body-mind-soul "core exercises" as you affirm, "From the core of my being, I am centered, whole and complete."