A lot of the yoga we practice in the West is associated with "asana classes" or classes for posturing and this makes it all too easy to slip into the belief that yoga is really a physical thing. On further nvestiagtion we then come to see that yoga is really about the mind and that asana practice is really working with the minds outer reaches or outer cicuitry. In other words the body is quite tuned into the mind and visa versa whether we like it or not. So even if we only spend time working with the body in asana and breathing we will still influence the mind.
What's amazing is that most postures or asanas while they have a physical form and feeling are almost certain to have a psychological component to them. So for example if you fold or bend forward you are more than likely to close down psychologically and emotionally Alternately, if you practice a string of backbends for a while you are more likely to feel open and energized.
One of the most neglected groups of yoga asanas are those aimed at core strength largely because they sound like hard work! To be fair they can sometimes feel like hard work if we over do them. Like all asanas however, we would do better to approach them with the same mind set that we apply to all asana. They still need to feel comfortable, almost as comfortable as sitting down.
Core strength asanas are worth cultivating for a number of reasons.
If you believe you have strong arms you may think that core strength can be put off but in reality even if your arms are strong a weak core can let you down. A strong and tomed core can act as a useful lever or support mechanism for the upper and lower body. In other words it is a great help when manoeuvring the upper body or the legs. This is bourne out when we look at the two most simple core strength poses: Simple Sit Ups (the core lifting the upper body) and Simple Leg Lifts (core lifts legs). If you practcie these the condition of your core will improve.
Furthermore, as we have said above there is a psychological component to most asana and a strong core is no exception. When you are stonger on the inside you are stronger on the outside. Your psych and personality is likely to be stronger at the surface because you are stronger inside.
What's amazing though is that simply crunching the gut will not necessarily lead to this outcome. There is a need to work psychosomatically. Releasing and absorbing into core asanas as you would with any other. Cultivating this by evolving to core asana with a greater degree of difficulty can make that all important psycholgical link - albeit you may require a teachers guidance with this. We can allow the experience of deep sensitivity that focused asana brings to translate psychosomatically into the deeper recesses of the mind. This can often only be experienced with prolonged meaningful practice. Core asanas in particular can bring a deeper sense of absorption as to maintain them we are required to bring together additional mental focus and physical strength.
It is hardly surprising that this area of the anatomy sits with the Third Chakra behind the navel. This is the Chakra that is associated with power, individualism, energy, fearlessness, confidence, strength of will and intution.
Never Give Up and Always Let Go!
Barry Todd (HathaYogaMan)