Saturday 21st April - balance, connection and your core

I hope you're enjoying this wonderful weather. I've been doing some practice in the garden - no mat, just getting my bare feet and hands in contact with the earth - and it feels great.  There's a balancing sequence in this week's 5 Pose Flow below which is fun to do barefoot outside. Being able to curl your toes into the grass helps you to grip and become steadier - try it.  Enjoy the sun on your skin, the sound of the birds, the hum of the bees and the neighbours' lawnmowers.... which reminds me.... I'll just finish this blog then I've got work (of the most enjoyable kind) to do... 


A Bit About...the other muscles that make up your 'core'

Over the last few weeks I've written about the 4 sets of muscles that make up your 'abdominals'. However, having good core strength (a phrase we hear a lot in all different types of sport and exercise) means more than strong abs alone - it involves some other muscles too...

Your core is the midsection of your body - think of it as a column with the abdominal muscles that we've already talked about at the front of the column; the quadratus lumborum (lower back muscles), the erector spinae (that run up the length of your spine like guy ropes) and the multifidis (deeper spinal muscles which stabilise the joints of the spine) at the back of the column; and the broad, flat muscle called the latissimus dorsi which covers the mid-back and sides of the body plus the transverse abdominals making up the sides of the column. The diaphragm is at the top of the column, and the glutes, pelvic floor and ilio-psoas muscle are at the bottom of the column.

Together the core muscles stabilise the ribcage and the pelvis when we move, helping us to stay upright and balanced, with good posture.  A strong core helps to keep our internal organs in place, so reducing the look of a pot-belly and, as we've already seen with the abdominal muscles, it helps with excretion and childbirth too. Think of your core as being your power-house - all your movements emanate from here - a strong core will give you energy, strength and stability. Yoga, with all its many different movements, will strengthen your core - yet another reason to roll out your mat and do your practice on a regular basis.

Just a note that, in all the study I have done on the core there doesn't seem to be a definitive description of it - various books and sources include, and leave out, slightly different muscles in their descriptions - I guess because everything joins onto something else and nothing has a start point or an end point but it is all one continual, loop that makes up the amazing human body. And I can't find a picture that incorporates all of the muscles I mention above either - so here's a couple which will give you an idea...



This Week's 5 Pose Flow...

Here's a flow of 5 balancing poses for you to practice. It will help to develop your core strength and your focus as you fix your gaze on one spot and concentrate. Feel that you connect your feet to the earth and stretch up to the sky.

Here's the sequence:

From Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

  • Stretch your arms above your head and come up onto tiptoes for this variation of Urdhva Hastasana.
  • Lower the arms, bend the right knee and catch the foot behind you to stretch the front of the thighs.
  • Hinge forward slightly at the hips and extend the left arm forward and up.  Push your foot back and up into your hand and press your chest forward and up too into Standing Half-Bow Balance (Utthita Ardha Dhanurasana) also known as Dancer's Pose (Natarajasana).
  • Ease yourself back to upright and bring the right leg forward. Place the sole of the foot on the inside of the left thigh and raise the arms into Tree Pose (Vrksasana). Push the foot into the inner thigh and the inner thigh strongly into the foot. 
  • Bend the knees, cross the right thigh over the left, wrapping the foot behind the calf if you can. Bend the elbows and swing the left arm on top of the right, twining the forearms and pressing the palms together. You are now in Eagle Pose (Garudasana).

Release back into Mountain Pose and do the other side.

This Week's Recipe... Butternut Squash Hummus

I'm always looking for tasty veggie options to put in my sandwiches. This hummus will do the job nicely with some salad and will make a good dip to have with crudities and pitta bread too. As always, it's a simple recipe - I'd rather be out in the garden than in the kitchen! 

You will need:

1 medium butternut squash

1 tbsp oil (sesame oil if you have it)

1 425g tin of chickpeas (drained)

2 tbsp Tahini

1 clove garlic (crushed)

sea salt and black pepper to taste


And here's how to make it:

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, Gas Mark 6.
  • Peel and slice the butternut squash. Then place the butternut slices onto an oiled baking tray. Brush with oil and sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper.
  • Place into the oven and bake for around 30 minutes until soft and cooked.
  • When the butternut squash is cooked, remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes.
  • Then put into a food processor along with the chickpeas, tahini and garlic and process until smooth.
  • Add salt and black pepper to taste.

Note: although this is an easy recipe I did encounter a problem with the food processing bit - because the mixture is thick it got stuck in the blades and needed scraping down a few times. I recommend whizzing it in small batches and adding a little oil and/or water to help it blend more easily (but not too much - you don't want it to be runny).



This Week's Musical Offering... Sleep by Eric Whitacre and The Virtual Choir

I heard this piece of music on Classic FM at the weekend and was captivated by it. Managed to remember the composer's name and looked it up. It's sublime.



This Week's Video... is a TED Talk by Eric Whitacre explaining how the Virtual Choir came into being. It's a bit longer than the usual videos I share, but I think it's well worth a look. He talks about the music that inspired him to become a composer, Mozart's Requiem, containing both harmony and dissonance. His work has this quality too. It's about balance again - the yin and yang.  Look for it - look for balance whenever and wherever you can. In balance we find security and stability but lightness and freedom too.

There's a lot of negativity around social media and the virtual world and I totally understand some of it (such as growing unease with the rise of mega-companies like Amazon taking over the way we choose the things we want to have in our lives - that's another story for another blog post though!) but this video shows us that there are good things about social media too. Humans ultimately have a need to connect with each other and social media can allow us to do so. And when we choose to do it in a positive way such as this it's uplifting and inspiring.