Thursday, September 13, 2007

Core Exercise

I recently went to a Core Yoga class offered by my chiropractor, Jill Massengill, D.C. ( As I was driving to her studio, I wondered if it would be a “hard core” or “real core” type of class. Most people think that working the core should be strenuous (as in this slide show from the Mayo Clinic, but actually core muscles contract subtly. Feeling them is more an experience of turning down intensity rather than revving it up. I wasn’t surprised, but I was pleased, when Dr. Jill helped us slow down and sink into subtle sensation so that we could activate the real core.

The core consists of four muscle groups: 1) the diaphragm, 2) pelvic floor, 3) transverse abdominus, and 4) multifidi. They act like a cylinder to stabilize the low back and abdominal cavity. The diaphragm is the top of the cylinder, the pelvic floor the bottom, and the transverse abdominus and multifidi make the circle part.

Unlike muscles that get worked at the gym, the core is designed to work slowly and for an extended period of time. That’s why many people fail to find or develop their cores when using the exercises like the ones from the Mayo Clinic—and the first 25 Google entries I found.

After much searching, I found an article by Susie Hately-Aldous that describes the incongruity between what people think a core exercise should do and what the core actually is. You can read it at:

I gave up my search before I could find a good core exercise for you from the internet. Here’s one that I teach my clients:
Engage Your Core by Using Your Feet, Part 1
1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet comfortably close to your buttocks.
2. Push down through your feet to push yourself “up,” as if you were getting “taller.”
3. Push with your heels only and notice how the line of force travels through your back.
4. Push with the balls of your feet and notice how the line of force travels through your front.
5. Push equally with the balls of your feet and your heels. Notice how much is on the inside and how much is on the outside arches.
6. Push evenly with your heels and balls with 60% weight on the inside arch, 40% outside.
7. Also try experimenting to find the push that travels up through your spine the most.

This is much easier than what most expect from a core exercise. But since so many of us are disconnected from our cores, we have to start by tuning into it.

Feel free to share your favorite core exercise.

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