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core support annette beningWhen your little boat gets swamped, how do you bail it?
When the seas get rough, how do you anchor yourself?

While no proponent of the Carolyn Burnham “The only person you can count on is yourself” philosophy (Oh, Carolyn, you drama mama), I do believe in knowing how to support yourself from the inside.

How do you anchor yourself when the waves crash over the gunnels?

Experiment to find what supports you and when you find it, practice. Practice when the seas are calm and nothing is at stake.

Then the anchor will be ready when you need it.

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Principle 8 – The Core of the Body ~ Three Body Weights

P8 old dude with 6 pack

When most of us hear “core” we think “belly” — more specifically a hard, flat belly.

Core work = sit-ups!  Right?

Principle 8 and The Body’s Way is about much more than getting a 6-pack. The Core of the Body includes three body weights – the pelvis, chest and head – and the spine that connects them. Increased mobility between the three body weights (movement in the waist and neck) improves strength and stability in the whole body. Avoid the “toothpick with a marshmallow on top” alignment and invite in fluid strength.

INOF gold netThe Invisible Net of Love is around you always. It can’t be seen, though, only felt. Reach out, ask for help, and there it is. You’re in the weave of someone’s net when you offer a hug, an ear, a pot of soup with crusty bread.
INOL ribs

Your rib cage is your body’s net of love. The home of the heart and lungs, it is the place of energy exchange. Sometimes in fear or pain, the rib cage tightens or collapses in. Take a breath. Feel your heart. Move your thoracic spine. Open to love going out and love coming in.

wagmore sticker“Wag More
Bark Less”
~ Bumper sticker

A sleek, black cat is the queen of my house. Phoenix purrs when she is happily nestled in Frank’s lap as he watches the Twins. When I’m late with the wet food (she has some kind of crazy-accurate tummy clock), she speaks in a sharp tone that expresses her annoyance with crystal clarity. Phoenix also wags her tail, but I’m never quite sure what she means by it.

Every dog I’ve ever known, however, has communicated clearly with their wagging. Gina, my rescued greyhound, could wag herself silly. From nose to tail tip, her whole body would swing and undulate whenever I walked in the door. Even if I’d just forgotten my keys. I bet you know a dog who has an all-out-full-on-whole-doggy-body tail wag that radiates pure rapture. That kind of tail wag is the embodiment of joy.

This is unlikely to surprise you, but I would love to have a tail. Rest assured that all outfits (especially Nia teaching outfits) would be designed for optimum tail comfort and expressiveness. Wouldn’t it be nice to thump it approvingly when you saw the food coming out? Or to flip it half-heartedly to indicate that “yes, I am paying attention but I don’t really want to get up”? Or to offer high-octane, coffee table-clearing, shout-hallelujah-he’s-home wag when you’re really feeling the love? I would.*

And I guess, as a daisy-pants-wearing Nia teacher, I do.

In my practice, I’ve discovered that tail-wagging is actually great for body and mind -– and people just don’t do it nearly enough. As I wrote about last fall in Explore from Core, the spine is designed to move in six directions: front, back, left, right, and spiraling both ways. When I wag my tail, I am creating mobility in the notoriously stiff and achy lower (lumbar) spine, as well as creating strength and flexibility in my waist, back and abdomen. By wagging my tail, I am creating movement in my hip joints which can release not just the leg muscles but (perhaps surprisingly) also tension in the jaw.

A nice slow, wide, alligator-tail kind of wag is particularly good for increasing range of motion and strength in the core, hips, back and legs. A fast happy-puppy tail wag can loosen up intrinsic muscles and shake out chronic tension. And a subtle, mid-range, walking-around-town tail wag is a great way to just keep the juices flowing.

In addition to all the physical benefits of some healthy, human tail wagging, a little tail wag reminds me to loosen up, lighten up, and not take myself so seriously. By wagging our tails, we invite ourselves to play, let go, even smile while we’re moving (click here for even more on the benefits of smiling)! Seriously, if your tail wag gets you (or someone else) to smile or even laugh a little, there are immediate and long-term benefits for body and mind.

Not to mention relationships.

Don’t get me wrong. Barking has its place. It’s important to say what is true, to set boundaries, and ask for what I want. In Nia class, by making sound, I not only strengthen my core and protect my back, but I release energy so I can relax more. So I’m not dissing barking, but as the bumper stickers says, my preference is mostly wagging with barking as needed.

Let’s face it, do you want to hang out with the dog that’s always yapping and making a rhubarb about every little thing? Or do you want to be with the pooch that wags her whole self to say hello after you’ve been gone for 27 seconds? I know I want to both be and be with the wagger (who can bark clearly to say, “Um, it was dinner time, like, 40 minutes ago.”).

So this week, whether you’re in class or out and about, wag more, bark as needed, and embody friendly love. I’d love to know what really gets you wagging (or barking) this week!

* Somewhat alarmingly, in the research for this post, I came across this Kickstarter campaign for the Tailly: a wearable, wagging tail that is connected to the wearer’s heartbeat. I’m not kidding. And this is not what I have in mind.

Move more in the core to free energy for extremities – my connection with the world.

Five sensations of fitness (flexibility, strength, mobility, agility and stability) in pelvis, chest, head and spine:

Flexibility:  Energy moving out

Spine moves in 6 directions:  left, right, front, back, and spiral left / right.  More spine flexibility: breathe more deeply.

Strength:  Energy Moving In

Core muscles run around the body.  Balance and extension (i.e.,  martial arts kicks, punches, blocks) in all directions creates core strength – especially when sounding!  More core strength: clarity, boundaries, tell the truth.

Mobility:  Energy in Constant Motion

Each vertebra moves independently. Mobilize core with spinal rolls and undulations, pelvic circles, and eye movement.  Spine mobility: can adjust and flow with present moment.

Agility:  Quick Stops & Starts

Hip bumps for pelvis and lumbar spine.  Chest isolations for thoracic.  Head and Eye for the neck.  More core agility:  adjust quickly and precisely for ease and power.

Stability:  Energy Moving from Center out in all Directions

More stability:  more relaxed and ready to move into any of the sensations with ease.

Sense five sensations in your core and how that affects your connection with yourself, others and the world.

 

 

 

 

 

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