Photos c/o Tutti del Monte
Life hinges upon the strength of our core.
People often avoid yoga because they lack flexibility, but the majority of yoga focuses on core strength. This goes far beyond having a six pack: it’s the development of tiny muscles deep within the abdomen that create the strength needed to grow throughout a yoga practice.
But everyone wants to immediately do cool poses — I personally can’t wait until I can magically hold a handstand for more than a split second.
It’s tempting to push into advanced postures you’re not ready for to get to that ‘instagramable’ moment. Or kick yourself up with force into a headstand only to topple over instantly because you don’t have body control. Then you leave yogaclass feeling defeated because you tried the pose once and it didn’t work.
Many of us (myself included) want the external glory of accomplishing something cool on our yoga mat without putting in the patient, persistent discipline of building strength from the inside out.
All of the advanced positions begin with core strength. Doing a headstand is less about force and more about letting your legs float up to the ceiling.
I remember the first time I piked my legs and floated into a headstand; it was a magical feeling. It felt like I was flying. For months I could do the pose if I flung myself into it, but I couldn’t remain there. The grace of floating came from strengthening those deep abdominal muscles. And just when I least expected it, my legs floated up.
It’s fun to have a cool party trick to show off. And who doesn’t love seeing a new line of definition on their body. But if I’m building bigger, more noticeable muscle groups and neglecting my core, I’m building a house of cards. Injury will be almost inevitable.
This principle goes well beyond yoga.
When runners hit a plateau or spin class enthusiasts begin to experience back pain, chances are it’s a core issue. As a collegiate tennis player my game went to the next level when I started doing abdominal work.
When our core is wobbly and weak it impacts all of the other parts of our bodies.
The beautiful thing about working out our physical bodies is that the principles we learn on the track, field, or yoga mat are directly transferable to our entire lives.
Think about your life.
Maybe you’re like me and sometimes struggle with insecurity about your relationship status. Or it could be your career. To those around you it looks like you have it altogether, but inside you’re waiting for the moment when the chips fall and people see that you’re really a fake.
These thoughts of unworthiness, insecurity, not belonging can’t be fixed with a band aid. They, too, are a reflection of a weak core. If I know, in the core of my being, that I am enough, I have what it takes, I am loved, I am seen—it changes everything.
Knowing our internal value helps us remain grounded when we experience drama at work, moments of loneliness in singlehood or even within a relationship.
Instead of focusing on the exterior, how can you strengthen your core? From your physical all the way to your emotional, and spiritual self.
Here are a few things I do physically:
- Prioritize your core: Even when I don’t feel like it—which I typically don’t! I found Morgan on Instagram and she has some great exercises. Check them out here. I pick a few and do them from home a few times a week.
- Schedule your workout: I live by my calendar. I am as intentional about my workouts as I am about my time with friends.
- Be realistic: People lose steam because they have these grand ideas of getting up at 4:00 a.m. and hitting the gym every day. For most people that’s not sustainable. Maybe you take sneakers to work and walk for 15 minutes on your lunch break. Or you commit to an early gym time 3 times a week.
Emotionally and spiritually one of the greatest things I do is write down truth statements:
- First write down a list of all the negative thoughts you have—I’m scared of rejection, I’m unworthy, I’ll never have the relationship I want, etc.
- Then take time toreplace each lie with a truth statement. For example:
- Even if I’m rejected I’ll be ok, because I know I am loved.
- I am worthy.
- I can have the relationship I long for—and know I am worth waiting for a partner who sees the gift that I am.
- My faith is important to me, so beside each truth statement I’ll include the biblical source for that truth.
My invitation for you is to take inventory of your core — physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Find tangible ways toincorporate more core strengthening exercises into your workouts.
Outside the gym, recognize the thoughts that are indicating a wobbly core. Write them down in one column, and in a column next to it write what is really true about you. In those moments of insecurity, go back to those core truths about who you are.
Notice over time how much freedom and strength comes from investing into our core.