Up and back

By August 9, 2010 How To

Once upon a time, many moons ago, I taught a yoga workshop at Kripalu about stability. In it, I took people through examples of the five basic groups of postures (standing, seated, supine, prone and inverted), and helped them find their strength and anchor at each stop.

The first point for anchoring was the place where the body connected to the ground, and so it changed depending on the posture set. For instance, in a standing posture, it would be your feet. Inverted, your hands or head. Prone, your pelvis. You get the point.

But the second point of stability never changed, it was always the engagement of the core. Physically speaking, you could qualify ‘core’ as ‘abs’ – but it’s really more involved than that. It requires a deep lifting up of the perineum*—as if you were trying to lift your pelvic floor towards your navel—at the same time that you are pulling your navel back to your spine.

After the postures, when they were quite comfortable with this feeling** of engaging their core, I’d have them stand up and face a partner, palms touching about shoulder high. I’d tell Partner A to relax these new found core muscles completely. Then, I’d tell Partner B to push them over–which they did instantly.

Then, I’d have them come back to face each other once more, and I’d instruct Partner A to engage the core this time. When I gave Partner B the ‘go’ signal, Partner A simply couldn’t be moved. S/he was like a rock…or tree…or mountain (something that was seriously grounded and immovable).

Their reaction involved a lot of head smacking and disbelief. “That’s it?” they’d ask all accusatorily-like. “That’s all I needed to_____???” Be strong, stand my ground, get some balls, believe in myself, have a life, not be a pushover, feel secure, etc., etc. and on and on—just fill in the blank.

“Just about,” I’d say. And to this day, I use that first point of connection to the ground and my core muscles when I run, bike, blade, swim, write, talk to people, network, work in general, need to stand up taller, love, do hard things, do happy things, etc., etc. and on and on—just fill in the blank.

Try it. On your next business call or when you walk around the grocery store or when you call customer service to get your damn money back. Connect some part of the body strongly to the ground, pull your perineum up and your belly button back towards your spine. Your chest will lift and your shoulders will drop down automatically. The crown of your head will reach up and away leaving your neck long and open. See how your voice sounds, notice how you feel, evaluate the outcome of your task.

But there is a catch. Because there’s always a catch.

The connection to the ground is always available and your core is always there, in your body and , therefore, wherever you go. BUT, you have to remember to use them. That part is up to you. Just like Dorothy…who had the power to go (up and) back—all along.

Image credit: Stephen Mitchell

*if you don’t know, your perineum is the place at the absolute bottom of your torso, your ‘south pole’ if you will. Sometimes, in the locker room, it’s called the t’aint (cause it’aint your good bits and it’aint your bum – but somewhere right in between). And that concludes the anatomy portion of this post for today.

**fyi, when you practice this engagement a lot (and especially at the beginning), it can cause a lot of sexual energy to bubble up because it involves your pelvis and everything your pelvis contains. I’m just sayin’ – and I’m not responsible. So there.

Join the discussion 6 Comments

  • Very Interesting exercise. I am going to have to try that, maybe when my kids are running around not letting the baby sleep…Thanks for something to think about- adapting the body to the situation.

    I wonder if the great “leaders” of the world and industry use this same technique without thinking about it. I would suspect so, they always seem to be very authoritative.

    In theater, if you want to project your voice to the back rows you use all of your core muscles to do so, must be at least similar.

    Another Great post Julie!

  • Aaron Pogue says:

    I tried it, and was surprised how quickly and effectively it works, even with nothing to go off except the instructions in this blog post.

    If I were not such a strong Social Constructionist, I’d be tempted to ask if this is a magic feather, or if it’s a real thing. As a strong Social Constructionist, though, I realize there’s practically no difference between the two.

    Either way, you made me stronger today. Thanks for sharing.

    • Julie Roads says:

      Aaron – you leave the best comments. If there was an award for such a thing, you would have a zillion at this point.

  • Cari Noga says:

    Slams me in the solar plexus – er, core, I mean. Truly I was meant to read your blog today after neglecting it for weeks. Exactly the message I needed at this moment in life. Thank you.

  • juliana says:

    This is perfect timing for me.

    Lately, I’ve started exercising again. The other day, my boyfriend noted that my stomach doesn’t “pooch” out much anymore. I haven’t lost any weight yet, but I have strengthened my core and I *stand up straighter* now, much straighter. I used to just leave all those muscles relaxed and vulnerable all the time. It was a real clue into how strength is directly related to confidence.

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