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Core Yoga: Moving Beyond the Six Pack

We’ve all been there: just when you think the vinyasa is slowing down — that it’s time to stretch and get calm — suddenly, boom! Your yoga teacher hits you with the dreaded navasana. Then low boat! Then up again. For, like, twenty minutes. Until your core muscles are on fire and you wonder how anyone thinks this yoga thing is relaxing at all!

Okay, so it’s a good burn

Of course after that kind of work, you tend to feel like a rock star. No surprise! From a physical perspective, strengthening your core is incredibly important. A strong core helps with balance, stability, and protecting your low back from stress, to name but a few benefits. The stronger your core becomes, the easier everyday activities become, from carrying shopping bags to putting on shoes – daily chores we barely consider.

Given our tendency to sit for the majority of our days, actively strengthening core muscles is key to bringing your body back into balance. And the results are instant! That good burn after yoga practice is your body thanking you for firing those muscles up and giving your overworked back a break.

Transcending the physical

Working your core feels great physically, sure, but have you ever felt more energy, motivation, and get-up-and-go after a core-heavy yoga session? This may be because you’ve activated your vital energy centres — your chakras.

Both Svadhisthana and Manipura Chakras can be stimulated by core work, and both have a huge impact on our energetic well-being. Svadisthana, the second chakra, located between the navel and pubic bone, is responsible for creativity, emotional stability, and relating to others and the outside world.

The region of this chakra is also prized in Chinese and Japanese martial arts – called the Dan Tian and the Hara in these cultures respectively. This area is prized as a storehouse of energy and inner strength. Keeping it well toned with breath-work and visualization is integral to fruitful practice.

Manipura chakra, located between the navel and the xiphoid process, is responsible for cultivating appropriate motivation and the ability to manifest our personal power. Keeping the energy flowing through this region helps us achieve a productive, satisfying lifestyle.

Trusting that gut

Perhaps you have heard the gut referred to as “the second brain.” Research increasingly proves that our gut lining houses a proliferation of neurons, second only to the number in your brain.

When we experience “butterflies” in our stomachs, a strong feeling of well-being in our guts upon making a decision, or any other reactions this area may have, it is to our benefit to pay attention. Focusing on and breathing into our core during practice helps us to become more aware of these “gut reactions” and what they might have to tell us.

Core work in our yoga practice — think navasana, balancing poses, standing poses, shoulder stand, etc. — in tandem with appropriate breathing practices that increase prana or chi flow to this all-important region of the body will help bring together all of these incredible benefits and leave you feeling strong, present, motivated, and balanced.

Julia Tausch practices yoga and writing in Hamilton, Ontario. She is a certified yin yoga instructor, as well as the author of the novel Another Book About Another Broken Heart. She is currently completing her second novel and blogging about the process.

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