Core Connectivity

Principles of Flow: Find and Move from Your Core

Think of the word “core” not in its sense of abs and lower back, but in its sense of a deep axis of the body, like an apple core. That axis will follow the line of your primary hip flexor muscle, the psoas, extending in both directions towards your feet and your head. You can trace the line of your core channel from your inner heels, through your inner thighs and your hip creases, coming together behind your navel and lengthening along the front of your spine towards your head. You can even include the line of your inner arms, from your inner armpits, through your biceps to your index fingers and thumbs. Initiate all your movements from the center of that core channel, specifically from a place somewhere between your navel and your spine.

As you organize your poses, think of two interlocking V-shapes to help you integrate your limbs into your core channel. Reach your tail and arms away from each other as one oppositional pairing, and your head and legs away from each other as the second. In some poses or transitions, one paring might make more immediate sense than the other. If you find this to be the case, perhaps repeat the pose or transition focusing on the less apparent pair in an attempt to integrate it into your movement or organizational patterning. Working in this way can help develop ease and efficiency as you clarify the pathways from your extremities–fingers/hands, feet/toes, tail and head–to your core channel and the front of your spine.

This post was originally published at yogaunion.com.

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Basic Practice: Softening and Widening the Hips and Buttocks

Basic PracticesThis practice features standing poses and twists. As you go through the sequence, consider the following points:

  • Lengthen the sides of your torso, keeping the back and chest equally wide to create a long and evenly balanced spine.
  • As you twist, when you turn your chest in one direction, turn your hips in the opposite direction so that the twist happens safely in the middle of the torso.
  • Allow yourself to be supported by your inner thighs by narrowing and lengthening them. From that support, allow your buttocks, outer hips and lower back to soften and widen.
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Intermediate Practice: Widening Across the Three Bands of the Back

Intermediate PracticesThis practice includes a lot of rope work, so it might not be accessible to everyone.

Back Actions:

  • Widen evenly across three bands of the back: the pelvic fan muscles and the two bands that include the superior posterior serratus and the inferior posterior serratus. The pelvic fans we explored here and the posterior serratus we explored here.

Core Actions:

Support the widening of the back actions with these front body actions:

  • Turn the xiphoid process towards the navel.
  • Draw from the sitting bones to the pubic bone to  to the navel.
  • In general, find a connection inwards, from the extremities to the core, in order to find the strength and coordination to expand back out into the limbs.

Wrist Actions in Ropes:

  • Widen across the heel of the hand and thumb mound.
  • Lengthen from the forearm to the fingertips across back of the wrists.
  • Draw from the heel of the hand to the forearm to strengthen the hand and wrists. (more…)
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Thanksgiving Special: The Idle Hands Practice

The big day is over and you still have a long weekend ahead of you. You’ve got time on your hands and an abundance of energy. Time to put it to good use. This practice has a little bit of everything in it: inversions, standing poses, core work, back bends and twists. Feel free to cut it back according to your capabilities and the time available to you. You might try doing about half of the poses in the practice today, half of the poses tomorrow and then have a go at the whole thing from beginning to end on Sunday.

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Intermediate Practice: Moving with a Long Spine and a Wide Torso

Intermediate PracticesOften when we move there are all sorts of narrowings and pulls that we perform without even realizing it that serve to compress our spines and torso. This all has the effect of interfering with our most efficient, inherent movement patterning. I this practice we will work with a series of directions to allow the spine to elongate to its fullest length in a balance and supported way. Throughout the practice, we will pay attention to the manner of movement as we attempt to undo our interfering habits and allow the underlying support of our musculo-skeletal structure to resolve itself.

As you go through your poses, consider the following points:

  • Connect the Pubic Bone and Xiphoid Process to the navel.
  • Allow the head to release away from the tail. Don’t “do” this in any muscular way. Allow it to be an organizing thought.
  • Lengthen the sitting bones away from the head without tilting or tucking the pelvis.
  • Lengthen the thoracic spine and the sternum evenly towards the head.

(more…)

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Intermediate Practice: Connecting to the Core and Widening the Back Body

Intermediate PracticesThis practice features a mixture of inverted back bends and deep forward bends. The linking thread between them is to maintain the connections between the pubic bone, the xiphoid process and the navel while keeping the back soft and wide. In the back bends, the front body connection can be soft and non-muscular, but it will maintain the integration of the limbs into the spine for a more effective core connection. In the forward bends, especially the arm balances at the end, even though the abdomen is condensed, a sense of softness is still important so the the back can soften and expand.

Follow the directions from the previous practices for both the arms/shoulders and the front body, here and here.

(more…)

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Basic Practice: Softening the Hips and Buttocks in Twists

Basic PracticesIn this sequence, consider the following points:

  • Lengthen the sides of the torso, keeping the back and chest equally wide to create a long and evenly balanced spine.
  • As you twist, when you turn your chest in one direction, turn your hips in the opposite direction so that the twist happens safely in the middle of the torso.
  • Allow yourself to be supported by your inner thighs by narrowing and lengthening them. From that support, allow your buttocks, outer hips and lower back to soften.

(more…)

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Intermediate Practice: Twisting in Four Parts

Intermediate PracticesIn this sequence, continue to consider the arm and shoulder work and the abdominal organization from the past few practices.

In addition, as you work with the twists, apply the following directions for the groins and sacrum:

  • Widen and draw back the outer groin/hip crease. Adjust the sacrum so that the skin covering it flows towards your head.
  • In twists, widen the trailing outer groin (the left groin when twisting to the right, the right groin when twisting to the left) as you draw the leading outer groin back.

(more…)

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Basic Practice: Narrowing and Lengthening the Waist and the Inner Thighs

Basic PracticesEach of these poses has a core component to them. Very often, people think engaging the core means squeezing the abdomen, tucking the tail towards the pubic bone and gripping the pelvic floor. All this serve to do is compress the spine and organs shortening and hardening the true deep core muscles: the hip flexors and the muscles of the lower back. This can lead to all sorts of problems over time.

Throughout the practice, apply the following points:

  • Find your inner thighs. By this, I mean allow your inner thighs to be part of the pose, narrowing them and lengthening them away from your head.
  • As you find and engage your inner thighs, soften and widen your buttocks, outer hips and lower back.
  • Narrow and lengthen the sides of your waist towards your head.
  • Draw your navel into your pine, keeping the abdomen long and wide.
  • Soften the neck, the jaw and the tongue.

(more…)

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Intermediate Practice: The Shoulder Girdle and the Core

Advanced PracticesIn this practice, we continue with our theme of working with the arms and shoulders as we have done in our previous practice.

The arms and shoulders:

  • Reach the forearms and upper arms away from each other.
  • Draw the biceps up towards the shoulder.
  • Empty out (soften and widen) the “eyes of the chest,” the space around the collarbones and upper pectorals.
  • Turn the bottom tip of the shoulder blade forward and into the ribcage.
  • Firm the outer edge of the shoulder blade forward and into the side body, creating a seamless bridge of support between the arms and the trunk.
  • Broaden the shoulder joint away from each other.
  • When bringing the arm up alongside the ear, look for an even see-sawing action. The upper arm comes back as the bottom tip of the shoulder blade moves forward around the fulcrum of the shoulder joint. This scapulohumeral rhythm, as it is called, is much more important than getting the arms as far back as you can.
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