Monday, January 17, 2011 at 9:02PM

I have students consistently asking me what “Core Yoga” is--how it differs from other yoga classes and if I think they are ready to give it a try. Core Yoga defines my teaching style: I want to express as best I can what inspires my classes and point of view. Of course, the best way to understand is to come try it out—you’ll know quickly if you’re not ready or if another style better suits you!

To put it simply, Core Yoga, is You Yoga. Yes, it’s about getting into some deep work, strengthening long lost places in our bodies like the Pelvic Floor or the Psoas. But it’s not a dedicated abs class or yoga for six packs—it’s really the opposite!  It is about teaching our bodies how to ground to the earth in order support a healthy spine and to work from a place of stillness and strength before we “express” a pose fully. I would say it is a “working” style of yoga (you will sweat & burn some calories) versus a restorative, passive style, but no less meditative. I construct thoughtful, challenging classes for students to tap into that physical center—so that they can then tap into their spiritual center. In yoga, it’s called your Manipura Chakra. This chakra relates to your sense of personal power and your ability or willingness to take action as you acknowledge your inner truth and identity. Core yoga prepares you for self-reliance. Eventually you become responsible for how the class (and therefore your practice) serves you. I teach you and train your body so that you can learn from yourself. Does that make sense? I’m not presenting different information, just presenting it to you a little differently.

Although I am now amidst a new certification in Core Strength Vinyasa (thank you Sadie Nardini for founding such a whole and complete way to teach from center!), I have always been drawn to core work in yoga. Many of my teachers have said “all yoga is ‘core’ yoga” and I agree—every pose benefits both physically and energetically from strength and awareness at center. The problem comes when you are so out of touch with this area that you don’t know when you’re in it and when you’re not. I’m sucking in my stomach as I sink so low into warrior that I’m an inch above the floor—I’m working my core, right? Maybe not. Like most ironic truths, you can only find its power when you are aware of its weakness (and from where it stems). After three c-sections I have experienced a disconnection from center in every way. Physically, my once-flat tummy changed into something doughy and scarred, hanging over my jeans. Spiritually and mentally I was constantly giving myself away, depleting my own energy in an unvarying (fruitless) effort to make others happy. I didn’t know it was yoga I needed, nor could I ever have expressed it was my “Core” that I had to strengthen. I didn’t know it, but I could feel it. With core practice I could feel the power building in myself: I could feel my voice and person strengthen as the muscles in my middle started to take shape. What I couldn’t have predicted was that I was more gratified by the loving, supportive feelings I had about myself, the sense of purpose and strength within, than I was by the flatter belly. In fact, I actually started to love myself enough that my definition of core had less and less to do with that area of my body and everything to do with remembering and accepting who I truly am. Yes, doing a handstand was nice too! It builds on itself—as I found balance and stillness in my practice, my confidence increased and I found myself taking more chances—in yoga, as well as in my life.

It’s not something you attain and check off your list. To practice this way takes, well, practice! I might say “Draw your navel in and up” two dozen times in class in just as many ways. I probably remind myself 100 times a day to “hug in” that desire to put others before myself. Like taking off the Spanx after a long night, my core wants to just release. I’ve had to realize my natural default is to let it all hang out. “Oh you need something? Here you go! Here’s some advice! Here’s some help! Here, have an idea, have a cookie, have some money!” It’s my challenge. Core yoga helps me to keep that in check—to make choices for what empowers me. This personal journey has become what defines me as a teacher. I try and channel these core lessons I’ve learned into classes that can benefit all of my students.

What to expect in class…Whether you’re brand new to yoga or more experienced, I hope to make you aware of new avenues to becoming present. For some it may be in the form of “Wow my legs are burning” or for others it may be “I never noticed that pattern of behavior before.” It takes a effort to get into those deep muscles, so I often lead students through flows and breath that build a little heat and eventually a lot of strength.

You’ll see students of all ages, levels of fitness, and experience. A novice student who understands the meaning behind a practice and works at his own pace actually has an advantage over the physically fit student who is less willing to modify and relies grossly on physical strength. It’s a class for every body. In some ways, core does serve athletic or tight individuals well, though, because I aim to create stabilization first, and then call to flexibility. The poses are the same as in every yoga class—I may cue it differently, but you’ll still do down dogs, warriors, cobras, and folds. In some classes, we do abdomen-specific work but in many classes we just incorporate it into every movement. We do experiment with adventure poses, like back bends, inversions, and arm balances—but all at your own pace. Because we create from the ground up—by the time class gets there, it’s easy! (well, easier). When you connect first to earth & draw that energy up into/around the spine you actually find restraint—this restraint is power itself. Your poses become stable in the muscles, rather than sinking into joints and in general you feel less strained. This core work gives you a light freedom that you didn’t think was possible when holding Half Moon or side crow.

And all of that is just the exercise part! By drawing into center and physically manifesting inner support and strength, you naturally create the same strength and support for the real you and the goals you have for your life. The newfound power will be evident in your improved posture—and the confidence you gain from that stability around your spine will start to translate into your job, relationships, and choices. You’ll begin to decipher the actions that serve you and those that drain you. Like your new, “light and floaty” warrior, from your connection to the present you’ll find lightness within. You’ll learn only to give more when you come from a strong place. That, my friends is liberating!  

So this is my intention for you, it is what feeds my yoga monster and shapes the way I teach. I want you to serve yourself and practice You Yoga. I can only get you started on that journey…if you get to class! Our challenge as students is to find a balance in our practice so that it can give us both what we want and what we need. I only knew I needed it when I found it.  Core yoga in every way has enriched the practice that is my life and I hope it does the same for you. Namaste’.

More questions about my style? Do you have an illness, injury or disability and still aren’t sure? Ask away!