Victoria Pendleton, double gold medal Olympic cyclist, makes core strengthening exercises look easy (and fun) while working out at my health retreat Yeotown during her stay with us last week. If anyone knows the meaning of a strong core it would be someone who has dedicated their entire life to one of the world's most demanding sports. That being said when core strength is mentioned, most people immediately identify with washboard abs or the much promoted "six pack" often sold to us in glossy magazines. No, the strength I'm speaking of is an internal fortitude that provides courage to make decisions rooted in the very core of your being and a tenacity to go after what you want with the clarity and focus of a gold winning Olympian. From my experience, a strong core is fundamental to achieving the confidence we all want and need to sustain a healthy relationship with the world.
Your core, or power centre, is located two to three inches above the navel and houses your personal power. This region of your body, also known as the solar plexus chakra, represents self-identity and plays a huge role in the choices you make each day, as well as your mental state. When your power centre is balanced, you radiate positive energy and possess a non-dominating power recognizable to those around you. When the energy in this area is blocked or imbalanced, you suffer from one or more of numerous conditions including anxiety, low self-esteem, emotional instability, excessive worry, depression, co-dependency, indecisiveness, desire to control others, shame, anger, fear of failure, lack of boundaries and passive-aggressive behaviour.
The solar plexus embodies emotional wisdom and is considered the second brain. Getting in touch with your core will access information unavailable through logic. One reason exercise and yoga are so beneficial to our overall health is because it connects us to our body and the feelings we hold onto at a cellular level. From this place of awareness, we are capable of healing and overcoming past trauma. Mindful movement, along with proper breathing techniques, stimulate oxygen flow and ignite the fire inside your stomach, promoting healthy digestion and inspiring deep-seated wisdom.
When we are not in tune with our second brain, the intellect in our head is overtaxed from too much thinking, resulting in headaches, stiff neck, neurosis and tension throughout the shoulders and upper back. We begin to operate from a domineering stance rather than a place of calmness and love. If we are really listening, our intuition (or gut feelings) lets us know when our choices are not in harmony with our truth and core values.
Below are a few ways to connect with your core and unleash your inner power!
1. Eat right for YOUR digestive system.
Digestion takes place in the core, affecting your mental state and general wellbeing. Feed your stomach foods that can easily be processed by your system. The way you eat is just as important as what you eat, so a healthy relationship with food is important. Create a positive environment when sitting down for a meal and eat slowly, savouring the flavours and aromas of your food. Your mind, body and soul will thank you for it!
2. Practice self love to create healthy relationships.
The way you treat yourself sets the stage for how others treat you. Establishing a healthy relationship with self that consists of respect, kindness and genuine concern will attract friends and partners that mirror these qualities. Know your worth and distinguish your boundaries before getting into a situation that may test them. Start by loving yourself utterly and unconditionally, and those meant to be in your life will follow suit.
3. Express yourself.
Learning to speak your truth is important when it comes to owning your power. If you grew up in an environment where self-expression was not only discouraged, but also a punishable offense, know that you have the right to speak up and assert yourself when necessary. Your feelings matter, so say what you mean and mean what you say. When you get in touch with your inner strength, quiet confidence conveys much more than words will ever declare.
4. Strengthen your abdominal muscles.
There are a thousand ways to strengthen your body on a physical level. Start with your abdominals and ignite your internal fire. Watch free videos online, read exercise-related books or hire a qualified trainer to learn safe techniques. A strong core will help you regain your power and heal numerous ailments including lower back pain, liver imbalances, digestive disorders, weight problems and stomach pain.
5. Breathe into your belly.
Learning how to breathe properly will reconnect you with your core. Fill your belly up like a balloon each time you inhale, expanding it to capacity with oxygen. These full, deep breaths will help you tune into your emotions and increase self-awareness.
6. Practice yoga.
Twists and backbends, when executed with breath, are great physical postures for moving blocked energy through your core and stimulating your digestive organs. Find a knowledgeable yoga teacher to learn proper alignment and to sustain a steady practice.
*Consistency is important when making lifestyle changes. Be patient and practice gentleness with yourself at all times.