Emotional Strength By Holly Purdy Photos by Jill Jones
What if getting a tight core serves a higher purpose in your life than just changing the way you look? Consider that when you come to your yoga mat, or whatever fitness you love, and put in a sweaty core workout, you are giving yourself the medicine you need to come into a more aligned and centered version of you. Our core, or our gut area, is where we often feel our intution, or “gut feeling,” as well as where a majority of our immune system resides. When we bring our awareness there and then strengthen that area, we’re strengthening our relationship to our feelings and intuition, as well as building functional strength that serves our bodies. Try this out. For a moment, stop everything you're doing. Sit tall and become grounded. Place your hands on your belly. Take three slow, deep breaths in and out through your nose, consciously sending breath deeply into your lungs and down into the core of your belly. Relax the muscles in your forehead, around your eyebrows, and in your jaw. Then, inquire about what emotions you're feeling in your belly-core area: physical, mental, and emotional sensations. As you strengthen your core with your fitness practice, breathe into your belly with the intention to heal what needs healing, and to build strength in your life where you need it.
This is the foundation of my yoga practice and teaching: getting clear with what’s present, and looking honestly at how my practice can help to clear my blockages and negative patterning. In fact, my journey to owning my own yoga studio began with... you guessed it...anxiety! Yoga was the first thing that actually worked for me in order to calm the voice in my head that was telling me things were out of control, that I wasn't good enough, and that I needed to have more or do more to be acceptable.
So, is yoga for you? The answer is yes. Yoga is many things, with infinite styles, teaching personalities, and methodologies. At Love Yoga, I seek to bring a wide array of classes and teachers so that our students can try it all and then find the yoga practice that speaks to them. What I want people to understand about yoga, and my studio in particular, is that yoga is literally for everyone! It does not matter your level of proficiency or experience, age, gender, or any other factor. You don't have to be flexible or fit or any THING. Love Yoga is a ZERO judgment zone. Furthermore, I want this studio to be exactly what it needs to be for my community, and I welcome the community to imprint itself here. We exist to grow with our community’s needs and wishes.
What follows here is a 15 minute yoga-based workout that you can do to strengthen your core, bring your attention to your body and breath, and find your center. Other than the obvious reasons we tend to focus on our core strength, such as a smaller midsection and tight abs, the reason I focus so many
of our class offerings around core strength extends far beyond wanting to look hot. Core work increases blood and oxygen circulation throughout the body, which gets endorphins pumping right away. Furthermore, core work connects you to your feelings because you’re bringing your attention to your belly area, where your gut and innate intelligence live. This intelligence is essential in yoga and barre, as you decide how deeply your body can move into more challenging poses in ways that avoid injury. The belly is our confidence hub. If we don't get centered in our core, we’re more likely to get pulled out of alignment, both physically and emotionally. So, if we get strong and centered first, we can more gracefully weather whatever comes our way with more grace and presence. To get started, roll out your mat, and find or create a good playlist. Music is a huge part of my yoga and fitness practices. I’m a firm believer in its power to shift our moods and help release energy that needs to move. So, find a good playlist you like on whatever music platform you subscribe to, turn it up, and follow this ten minute sequence to get out of your head and into your core.
STRONG CORE SEQUENCE
1. Leg Switch Outs / Hamstring Stretch
Lie on your back and extend both legs on your mat. Extend your right leg up toward the ceiling, bringing your leg perpendicular to the floor. Interlace your hands behind the back of your calf or thigh and pull your leg in toward you. Flex both feet and engage both thigh muscles. Engage your core, draw your navel toward your spine, and keeping your gaze lifted toward the ceiling, peel your shoulder blades off the floor. Hover your left leg above the floor. Draw your lifted leg in more to deepen your hamstring stretch. Hold for 5-8 deep belly breaths and then switch legs.