Creating A Steady Core

Creating A Steady Core

A steady body is something many come to yoga lacking. Over time this may change. But it may not. Why? Daily patterns, illness, inattention to how we move (in yoga and life), and the ageing process are some reasons. Although we spend a lot of time during yoga practice stretching and moving, it is possible we are forgetting about the key component of it all – stability (inner and outer).

Stability is the foundation if we are to practice well and to full benefit. It can apply to the physical body but also suggests a particular internal quality. An attitude or bhavana. It is however hard to achieve an attitude of stability if the body isn’t feeling capable. This is the benefit of a consistent yoga program designed for your own needs.

In the body it starts with the feet moving up. How well do you stand? Is there ease and balance? Do you sink into the hips or hold yourself upright? Can you use your breath to connect with the deeper core muscles supporting you?

Or perhaps it is the upper body that require stability. Shoulders or wrists may be weak and not ready for postures that require hands to press into the earth such as downward dog, bhujanghasana, cataranga and the like.

Is it better to attempt something and do it badly or step back the process and work with postures you can do well – building on stability over time?
As a teacher, I know the answer is the second one.

We all have a starting point that can progress with the right direction and knowledge – one of the key prerequisites is a vibrant and full connection to conscious breath.
It is easy to think of the breath as something that (only) keeps us alive but the breath can be a tool to build strength and muscular stability too. If used correctly.
Breath is also the conduit to prana – life force. When we connect to breath, we move deeper within ourself. We may find clarity to take the next move.

The torso is the home to breath and is actually the source from which stability arises in yoga practice. From the navel centre to the pelvis we hold ourself upright on the earth. A compromise here can lead to so many other issues in our health.

As it flows into the body, breath impacts the ribcage and all the muscles that bind it. It moves the diaphragm. It changes the shape of the abdominal cavity, so that organs move subtly. We can create a lot of internal space by breathing well with the full torso – not just into the belly. And space is actually the key to all of this. When there is space the mind can experience ease.

Holding internal space in joints and muscles as you hold a warrior or a downward dog changes the pose dramatically. Sinking into hips, bowing into a strong backbend and compromising the structure of the torso will create weakness and probably pain. Yoga is a whole body process and that includes the mind. Disconnection from our true needs (or maybe lack of acceptance), overridden by the desire to push the physical form to certain ‘shapes’ creates problems.

And without it sounding like a cliche – we arrive at the first niyama of the 8 Limb Yoga Path – ahimsa (to do no harm). We can’t really be practising Yoga without this present.

As the body ages we bring with it the patterns of the past and this is worth remembering as we maintain our practice. Whatever age, there will have patterns that we subconsciously repeat. Yoga is a great opportunity to change the ones that aren’t of benefit.

Are you practising from a klesa (cause of suffering) such as ego – asmita or perhaps from incorrect understanding – avidya. Both of these may compel you do do a pose a particular way even though the wise part of yourself is whispering otherwise? The goal is to practice with vidya – clarity, full comprehension.
This can take time to emerge and is actually what yoga is all about – inner reflection leading to reducing suffering.
The irony is that we can become trapped in unhelpful yoga patterns – samskaras that we think are ok. If we are stuck in a suffering cycle, the practice is no longer right for us (or never was)!

You are the one inside your body, not the teacher at the front of class so ownership of your needs has to come first. Create an internal listening – without judgement. Notice what pops up.

To break it down a little more we can reflect on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and the one of three sutras that actually mentions the physical form. 
‘sthira sukham asanam’ – asana should have the dual qualities of stability and ease (intepretation – we should be practising with structure as well as space).

Yoga teaches us to walk a balanced path in all ways.
Obtaining personal integration is the goal of practice.