This past week I was in a Yoga Tune Up® Core Integration Immersion – 4 days of core!

Instead of doing a bunch of crunches and sit-ups and planks, I learned how to breathe. I learned that the psoas (hip flexor muscle) attaches to your diaphragm. I learned that your heart attaches to your diaphragm. I learned that the human body is just bags inside of bags of soft tissues that attach to ligaments that turn into bone and organs.

As the human being form we are completely connected. One entity made up of many seemingly separate pieces and parts that do their own thing to keep us alive but depend on the viability and longevity of every other piece of us.

I’m not even talking woo-woo metaphysical, spiritual talk. Physically, ever piece of your body is intertwined and connected somehow to every other part.

Cool, right?

Beyond the physical challenge

This immersion training was HARD. It was hard physically, because, I mean, we’re working the core, but it was hard emotionally and spiritually as well.

I am fortunate that I’ve always been a moderately confident girl. I like my core very much and I work it very hard. But for the longest time, I couldn’t figure out how to soften and let go physically.

Here’s the girl that talks about letting go all the time, and I can’t let go myself. This was an area that I really felt like I was out of integrity.

This bothered me. It frustrated me. Why couldn’t I soften my core? Ultimately, I think it was because I was trying too hard and thinking too hard about it.

Your second brain

After I just suggested that I was thinking too hard, let me offer up the neuromuscular-core connection. When you keep your core engaged, consciously or unconsciously, you are bracing for impact. You’re ready to go ALL THE TIME (which I’ve mistakenly thought was a good thing all these years). But really, where do you need to go when there’s nowhere to go? That’s right, no where. So what’s the use of being ready? You’re just expending energy that is better used stored so that you can use it later when you really need it.

Because I couldn’t soften my core, I have a really hard time relaxing. What!? The 12 Days of Relaxation girl can’t relax? Yeah. I teach what I most need to learn and practice myself 🙂 I’m right there on the mat with you.

This was my own personal issue, but there were a lot of people in the core integration immersion that had other stories about their core.

Your core is your powerhouse, your center, your midline, your fire, your fuel. You gather strength and confidence in your core physically, mentally, and emotionally. On the physcial level, your core is where you metabolize food to create energy to fuel your body. Your gut acts as a second brain helping you steer your intuition and decision-making. When we live from a centered place, we are powerful in the best possible way. When we are weak, we become misguided and fail to live up to our full potential.

All of this to say, the core is a loaded place to do deep work.

The provocative nature of core work

At the beginning of the training, the teacher  (who by the way is a competitive weight lifter whose numbers qualify her to compete at the global level, no big deal) mentioned that this work can be provoking. I internally scoffed. I wouldn’t be provoked. I love my core.

I was wrong.

Over the course of 4 days, I learned a lot of cool stuff. I learned how to do things I hadn’t been able to do before and things I never thought I’d be able to do that turned out to be way easier that I’d built them up to be in my mind. I discovered new blind spots in my body – muscles I didn’t know could work the way I was training them to work. But most importantly, I learned how to let go.

I learned how to soften my core and with that physical softening I learned how to expand my breathing. Once I could expand my breath, I felt calmer. And once I felt calmer, I experienced a strange opening of my mind. I was more open to learning new things and concepts that perhaps I would “poo poo” in the past. I was open to hearing new perspectives. I was free.

When you are able to physically stretch and create space in your body, you learn how to access a much deeper, more internal, personal experience. Once you expand physically, you also unlock the gates to explore your internal landscape.

That was by far the coolest part of the whole training.

An expanded definition of core

Your core gives you access to your soul. Your core is your soul.

In this particuar training, the core muscles were defined as your breathing muscles. Your core muscles were any muscle that moved your spine. That’s a lot more then the normal 3 rectus, obliques, and transverse core muscles we work so hard to sculpt (and sometimes fail to soften).

I want to share these next two facts because I just can’t get over how cool the human body really is. As part of this training we watched a lot of videos of human dissections, which is also difficult and provoking in it’s own way.

The psoas attaches to your diaphragm. This means that if you have a chronically tight psoas, you may also have trouble taking really deep full breaths. If your psoas is always contracted and pulling down on your diaphragm like a little brother tugging at your shirt constantly nagging you to come out and play, you’re diaphragm has to work even harder to assist your breathing. Who would have thought that a tight muscle that controls flexion of your leg could contribute to poor breathing patterns? Wild, huh?

Also diaphragm-related, your heart sits directly on top of and connects to your diaphragm. To me, this symbolizes your breath’s connection to your ability to feel fully. Tight core? Maybe you’re “holding back.” Does this make as much sense to you as it does to me?

If you can’t tell, I’m getting kind of excited over here.

From core work to kind work

As I was driving back to Virginia from my Core Integration Immersion weekend in Cleveland, OH, I was listening to a podcast with Simon Sinek and Jonathan Fields. I consider both of these people my teachers. I’ve studied with Jonathan directly and am in love with the way Simon Sinek talks about leadership and marketing.

Anywho, Simon really got me thinking, as he normally does. He talked all about how there’s a fundamental difference in leadership. Some leaders show up to take care of the bottom line. Others show up to take care of their people.

Some marketers show up to make a sale. Others show up to share what they know.

Some people take for their own benefit. Others give and benefit.

It’s easy to get caught up in the way things are and the expectations of society. It’s easy to brace for what’s next all the time. It’s more fulfilling to be vulnerable, share what you love and give what you can to those who can most benefit, are willing to listen and open to change.

This is why I wanted to write about the core today. I want to share with you what I learned in hopes that you’re willing to explore your own relationship to your core, whether that be in your next yoga class, your next meditation session, or just your next breath.

I was a little hesitant to write this blog post because it’s not of a journalistic standard or a direct teaching. It’s not what or how I was “taught” to write. But I really, really want to share information with you. I love what I do because I love sharing information. I love teaching you new things. I love making you think.

Keep on keeping on, yogis. Be brave.