When we think about core exercises, we typically focus on muscular strength and toning. But in fact, most people get core strengthening wrong, says physical therapist and yoga expert Diana Zotos Florio in this free download.
We know that having a strong and balanced core body is essential to retain structural integrity and prevent or eliminate back pain.
However, core strengthening exercises that approach the core as just a collection of muscles are completely missing the point, Diana notes. We have to train the whole core as a system, not just a collection of muscles. To have any value, core strengthening must focus first on reestablishing neuro-muscular integration.
To train the body for optimal core integrity, we also need postural support and stability to move and transfer energy, she notes.
The core functions as the body’s internal stabilization system, which regulates our internal pressure system according to how taxing a task is.
Having optimal posture helps maintain the integrity and focus inside the core – below the ribcage and above the pelvic floor diaphragm. This big, open space is held in balance via a system of internal pressure.
The pressure inside the core changes hundreds of times daily in response to the task at hand. For instance, the pressure is higher when practicing a plank pose verse sitting. For this reason, it is important to have a resilient and responsive internal pressure system that responds to the needs of the moment.
Sometimes, however, this internal pressure system can become dysregulated and the result is a loss of structural integrity and balance. This in turn can lead to back pain issues and a number of other issues that limit our mobility and structural health.
How do we re-establish a strong and well-integrated core body system?
The number one tool we have is simply awareness, Diana notes. In our yoga practice, we can pause and pay attention to the entire core system in our yoga practice. Are the muscles engaging around our midsection? Do we feel the pelvic floor region, and does it move with breath? Does the diaphragm or ribcage move with breath?
These and other simple techniques can make a big difference, Diana says.
When it comes to a healthy and strong core, it’s not about how hard we work or try, it’s all about how we engage and integrate the core systems. According to Diana, that all starts with reestablishing greater neuromuscular integration, and that in turn starts with simple awareness-building exercises.