Over the last years, you’ve all heard about core stability. But what if for some of you, that’s an idea that creates problems, rather than solves them?
The design of our muscles means they work in pairs: as one contracts, the other side of it lengthens. (Other than the round sphincter muscles, which work a different way.)
We need stability, of course, but we also need equal amounts of mobility. A healthy balance between the two is the best.
When we pull in all our core muscles at once:
- we make a division between top and bottom.
- We can’t access the full length of the back, which means we lose the bigger vertebrae’s ability to support the smaller joints of the upper spine.
- Our chest, shoulders, arms, head can’t access easy skeletal support from the pelvis, or our legs.
- We stop the diaphragm from lengthening the lungs fully downwards: a movement that provides the lungs about 60% of their capacity.
- We over use the muscles of the low back, belly and pelvic floor.
Pulling the belly in can help stabilise parts of the back, which can be really useful.
But it also stops your intestines working well. The movement of the diaphragm into the intestines, is what helps to push food along the tubes. It’s this long journey around the miles of intestine that allows us to take the full nutrition from what we eat. When we pull in from both sides at the same time, we’re preventing this give-and-take of the muscles.
We’re preventing the whole of the spine acting as one. Which is crucial for longterm mobility health.
Core strength is useful, but overusing those muscles isn’t. And of course, we’re designed to be able to pull everything in. Think of weight lifters: when you’re lifting something heavy, you want to collect all those muscles working together. But for a lot of the rest of the time, it can be counter productive.
Am I suggesting you stop any exercise modalities with a high concentration on core stability? Only if you find:
- you have more musculo-skeletal pain since starting exercise
- you have a constant stiff neck
- your shoulders can’t find a comfortable place to sit.
- You’re having issues with your bowels
- you’re unable to breathe fully
But I am recommending that you do them with less emphasis on core stability. Include as much thinking about mobility of your core – movements that allow the whole spine to move. Movements where you allow your belly out, to access the antagonistic muscles of the low back.
And I am suggesting it comes off its pedestal. That you include more holistic movement in whatever exercise you do. And most important, with awareness of your body as you do them.
If we can’t sense a part of ourself, we can’t organise it well or efficiently. Think of your body like a bookcase, full of books, where lots of the spines of the books face the wall. You can’t organise your bookcase well, because you can’t locate which book is where. It’s the same for your physical self. If your brain can’t feel it, you can’t move it with any skill.
Weekly Feldenkrais lessons are a way of turning the books around in your physical self. As you can feel more of your body, in 3D, the better you can sense yourself, what is useful, and at what point it isn’t.
To find out more, visit the classes page.
(Photo credit: Tim Mossholder@unsplash)