In order for a tree to withstand powerful winds it must have a strong trunk allowing for the branches to move in the wind whilst the tree stands firm and rooted.
Our core muscles are no different than the trunk of a tree and occasionally we do refer to the trunk when describing this powerhouse.
The core is the very foundation for virtually any activity that requires standing upright and performing a movement. The muscles of the core work together to stabilize the spine, protect it from injury and to coordinate and execute movements. The deeper muscles like the multifidus, quadratus lumborum and transverse abdominis primarily function to stabilize the spine and give it structural integrity to prevent injury during movement. The more superficial muscles like the abdominals, spinal erectors, obliques, iliopsoas and glutes function more to initiate and execute movements of the limbs and trunk (although they can also function as stabilizers when contracting isometrically).
If the deep stabilizer muscles are weak then the spine is unstable and susceptible to injury. Once an injury occurs these muscles become even weaker because they are the closest to the site of injury and this makes the spine even more unstable and more susceptible to injury. The larger more superficial muscles must work harder to compensate for the lack of stability. This causes a muscle imbalance: some muscles become tight and some muscles become weak.
A perfect way to build strength in this area is through yoga.
If you practice yoga regularly and use the techniques to engage the core and moved with the breath, you will effectively glide from posture to posture. We refer to this as ‘effortless effort’ focussed movement regulated with your breath. With each move, you engage the core, isometric contraction, muscle recruitment and move. This process is repeated time and time again in a one-hour practice, unconsciously but effectively building strength and toning the body where it really counts, not for fleeting aesthetic purposes but for real practical benefit.
In effect, this is a really nice way of a core work out, although much more than that.
Each time we move and engage the core to stabilise and protect the spine, this develops a movement behaviour that we take away from the mat. This is good because it brings stability to our spines, which, as we get older do become less stable.
If you wish to re learn how to move functionally, protect your spine, and stand tall like an English oak, why not try a yoga class, and see how this practice really helps you? There is even a tree posture to really challenge your strength, balance and awareness. Look forward to seeing you on a mat soon!