Discovering Your Core's Value
Most of us are obsessed with abs. We do countless crunches, take the latest supplement, implement the newest "ab" diet. We want the 6-pack abs like the models on magazines or in the glamorous photo on social media. What if I challenged the idea of the importance of those 6-packs, and said that it really is something deeper (Isn't it always?) that leads to improved health. Sure, having a 6, 8-12 pack set of abs (not beer here folks!) is nice to look at, but did you know those muscles are considered superficial? Yup, those are muscles designed to look good, but it's the muscle groups that you don't see that provide the REAL value. Welcome to Core Values.
If you've ever been to a yoga class, you've surely heard the teacher say something like, "Engage your Bandhas," or "Root Lock." If you're like most students you probably aren't really sure what on earth the teacher means, but you try to stand up a little taller, and maybe suck in the tummy a bit. Let me start with a little story about my own journey into the understanding of the value of those Bandhas.
Mula WHAT? When I first started practicing with my late teacher, Donna Feiner (she was a level II certified Ashtanga Yoga Teacher), one of the first things she started teaching me was not how to float through (what I wanted to learn) but it was about the “Mula Bandha.” Every class, she’d say, Jennifer, mula bandha, mula bandha, MULA BANDHA! She'd then remind me to engage the Uddiyana Bandha, after which I would dutifully suck in my tummy and hope we could move on to something "cooler." Turns out, these bandhas--they were key to the "COOL" postures I so much wanted to learn.
This was 6 or 7 years ago, I don’t remember exactly, and WAAAAY before kids. Prior to working with Donna, I’d already received my 200 and 500 hour Yoga Teacher Training certificate. I was younger, single and had a LOT more time to practice. I was still recovering from the herniated disc issues (and subsequent pain)—and yoga was the ONLY thing that kept that pain at bay. I told Donna, and she was not surprised.
If you were to look at me standing up (no core muscles engaged) you’d notice I have a very pronounced “sway back” -- let’s just call a spade a spade here—my butt sticks out. As I got older, ran more, and had kid(s), that pronounced curve suddenly became a literal pain in my backside. Donna recognized this genetic trait of mine right off—before the pain of pregnancy, and tried desperately to get me to strengthen the associated muscles so I wouldn’t have the low back issues that would sometimes plague me.
That’s right, the Bandhas can do that. So what on earth are these Bandhas? In Western terms, it’s deep abdominal muscle groups responsible for keeping us upright and mobile. In yoga, it is taught that we have 3 bandhas—the Mula Bandha (Pelvic Floor), the Uddiyana Bandha (that’s the belly button to spine action you hear in most exercise classes) and the Jalandhara Bandha- that’s when you tuck your chin to our chest. When you engage all three of these bandhas or “locks” it creates what is called the Maha Bandha. If you want to learn more about THAT, come to class! (Or, keep reading our blog posts!) The pelvic floor is a group of muscles at the base of the pelvis. Both men and women have them, and need them to be strong in order to have healthy backs and good posture, healthy elimination and good sexual health. Yogis need strong pelvic floors to do all the fun inversions you see on social media today. The Uddiyana Bandha-that's what protects our spine, helps us twist and lift and keeps us mobile and relatively pain free. As you can see, Bandhas are super important.
Getting to the Core
Everyone needs strong bandhas—or abdominal muscles. It helps everything from low back pain, posture, incontinence, and even your physical exercise proficiency. When your “trunk” is not strong, your back isn’t stable. When your back isn’t stable, the rest of your body has a much harder time doing its job so pain, instability, arthritis, trouble with balance--the list goes on, it all follows weak CORE muscles. Some people have an easier time working with these muscles, and keeping them stronger than others. Some people, based on the way they are shaped have to focus even more on these “locks” just to stand up straight, let alone to do fun yoga postures. I just so happen to be one of the lucky ones that have the genetic disposition to make bandhas so important that I literally am in pain when my bandhas aren’t strong.
In order to save the low back and to help with those associated health issues, it is absolutely imperative that the Mula Bandha and Uddiyana Bandhas be identified, and then isometrically engaged. People with overly pronounced curves in their low backs, that have had babies (naturally and via C-Section), that have spent years working at a desk or driving in their cars, and basically just living a life that doesn’t require a lot of manual labor—these are the people that “forget” how to engage the bandhas. (yes, our bodies can forget how to use certain muscles!) As we’ve stopped using the muscles—health issues related to the lost muscle has increase. Things like low back pain or back pain in general have increased, the side effects of weak abdominals (including pelvic floor muscles) have become more and more pronounced with more people discovering the link to their incontinence or sexual health issues related to these muscle groups.
How to Learn About Your Core Strength
Come to our workshop February 25 th, 2018 from 2:00-4:30 at The Wellness Corner. Results Physiotherapy representative,
Monika Patel PT, DPT and Yoga East’s very own Megan Brock PT, DPT, MPH, RYT-200 will spend the afternoon explaining the importance of this muscle group, teaching us how we can isolate and engage them, and teach us how we can incorporate the use of these muscles in our daily routine and practice. It’s really that simple (and complex)—we have to correctly locate, then exercise these muscles and suddenly things like low back pain are alleviated. Things like crossing your legs when you sneeze become an issue of the past. Your inability to stay stable while upside down starts to diminish. You get stronger at the root, and are able to grow up taller. This workshop is for everyone—whether male or female-child bearing or beyond.
The Bandhas are important to everyone with a spine (that means you) and with the desire to maintain the ability to stand up straight (let alone those of us wishing to improve overall balance, stability, decrease pain, reduce or eliminate incontinence issues, and even improve your physical yoga practice.) I am so thrilled to have these two fabulous, knowledgeable doctors coming to our community, to share their expertise and skills and to help us get stronger, together. I hope that everyone reading this can come Feb 25 th . I’m sure the education we gain and the skills we learn will improve our quality of life from the very first day. Don’t hesitate, join us today!
Bandhas Save the Day!
I am so thankful for the guidance I’ve had from my teachers. Had it not been for Donna’s persistence, I am sure my practice and my life would be dramatically different. Each child has made my structure change (and has caused pain, no doubt) but it is because of her training –and the help of Monika, and a consistent yoga practice, that I can confidently say my low back pain and related issues are almost completely alleviated. Sure, when I skip a practice, or if I don’t focus on the bandhas, that pain comes right back, but I know with the right practice, I have the power to change my body, which ultimately improves my life. You can do that too. Come join us and find out how!
What is the Investment?
This is a one day workshop that costs $35. You will spend 45 minutes in an experential lecture, learning the anatomy behind these muscles groups, and how you can isolate and engage the muscles. Following the lecture, you will be led through a 60 minute beginner friendly yoga class designed specifically to help you feel the engagement of the Core Muscles groups (Bandhas) and how you can work in your own practice to continue to strengthen and engage to enhance your own quality of life. We have left plenty of time at the end for questions, so bring your notebook, and get ready to pick the brains of these two brilliant Physical Therapists and enjoy an afternoon learning more about YOU.