If yoga and meditation are paths to fully discover the central kernel of who and what we are, then the second task of core work during a yogi’s growth aims to strengthen this sense of self. This is the adult task that nobody can escape. And if the asana is truly a container and process for muscular core work, it’s also a container and process for self-work.
My yoga teachers speak of core work as the effort required in strengthening the body’s muscles around the diaphragm. Specifically, core work in yoga aims to increase the strength of the abdominal muscles (internal and external obliques), the psoas, and spinal extensors – but working the core in yoga is much more than targeting the diaphragm or strengthening muscles.
In most things, I want to be on solid ground, and I believe what I hear only after seeing fundamental examples. Perhaps like me, you yearn to understand how something is true rather than simply accept another person’s opinion. When we work our practice, it provides us with all we need to discover the core of self.
THE CORE QUESTION AND ANSWER
When I started yoga, I was captured by a central claim that yoga strengthens the core. I wondered which core this was referring to, and I followed my curiosity to learn. To answer the identity question, I placed it under a microscope and noted what happened. As I laboured to hold a pose in which my legs were burning with lactic acid and I was at the point of shaking, moving the pose, or even giving up, I came face to face with the core of who and what I am.
Yoga asana had led me to the teachable moment. I asked myself, why am I doing this? What brought me to this moment? And my examination continued when I named – after many hours – who was doing asana. This led me to the core of my identity and became the great gift of yoga. Since then, I’ve learned that process happens over and over.
The more I persist in core work, I am rewarded with a more complete answer. When my physical and mental core is engaged, I am present in an encounter that simultaneously challenges and rewards my attention, my effort, and my courage.
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