Somatic educator Liz Koch’s Core Awareness: Enhancing Yoga, Pilates, Exercise, and Dance is a guide for getting in touch with your core and tapping into your innate capacity for healing, building strength and increasing flexibility. We asked Koch to explain the value of cultivating core awareness. —BBL Editor
We’ve been hearing about the importance of the “core” for quite a while now. If you think all this core talk is just about flat abs, think again. The human core is at the center of our being, deep within the belly behind those flab or fab abdominals. Focusing attention on our true core can help us become conscious of our somatic (body) intelligence and improve our proprioception (the system that tells us where our body parts are without looking at them). Improved proprioception increases a sense of balance, coordination and speed. This increased awareness helps us feel grounded, centered and calm so we have a better sense of judgment. Proprioception can make the difference between getting injured verses improving our movement and is an important aspect of playing any sport well. Here are three reasons to develop your core awareness, as well as a simple position you can use to expand and improve your core awareness.
1. Enhance the Outcome of Your Workouts: To understand movement from a somatically intelligent perspective, we need to stop asking the question: Is a particular exercise or form of movement good or bad? Will this form of exercise make me strong? Instead, we need to ask: How much body awareness can I maintain in any given position, movement or activity? What sensory cues signal present space and time?
It is our ability to stay present to somatic information that serves as our internal guide, which in turn matures our somatic intelligence. The process becomes a self-regulating feedback loop. The more we pay attention to internal cues, the more we develop internal integrity, and the more we access integrity, the more powerful our expression becomes.
2. Protect Yourself From Injury: Injuries are often a signal of an overburdened system, a direct result of a lack of integrity at the core. Whether experienced as a restriction in the range of motion or interference by a constricted muscle, injury can be traced to imbalances stemming from a lack of core awareness. Shifting our attention to developing core awareness increases proprioception and thus helps to prevent, resolve and heal injuries.
3. Increase Overall Well-Being: Just “going through the motions” when exercising does not increase our capacity to adapt and organize or body in time and space—growing proprioception does. Instead of pushing through the pain or ignoring sensory input, by focusing on core awareness we maintain the integrity of the whole system. When a position is too demanding, it ultimately compensates core integrity. To avoid compensating in any given task or position, it is vital to increase proprioception and modify the position to maximize skeletal support, joint integrity and core awareness.
Constructive Rest Position
Use this Constructive Rest Position as a tool for accessing your core awareness.
Simply rest on your back, knees bent with feet placed parallel to each other, the width apart of the front of your hip sockets. Place your heels approximately 16 inches away from your buttocks. Do not push your low back to the floor or tuck under your pelvis; allow the spine to be neutral. Keep your arms below shoulder height, resting them over your ribcage, by your sides or on your pelvis. Rest in this position for 10-20 minutes.
When you roll over and get up, notice if you feel more centered and ready for action. Resting in this simple position calms the nervous system while simultaneously awakening awareness for discerning emotions and sensations. With gravity as an ally, the constructive rest position releases the core muscle of the body, the Psoas (so-as) while providing a neutral baseline and reference point for noticing change before or after any exercise activity.
For more information about Liz Koch, visit coreawareness.com.
Adapted excerpt from Core Awareness: Enhancing Yoga, Pilates, Exercise & Dance.