Isn’t it all about ‘Core Strength?’
Core strength does not mean the ability to hold the body in a single stationary position but rather is the ability of the body to stabilise and control the full range of movement using the deepest muscles of the body. Nearly any core stability exercise can be held and sustained using peripheral muscles strength without accurately engaging the deeper core muscles.
Core Release Exercises release the chronic holding and tension of the peripheral muscles that are guarding the deeper core of the body in a defensive or ‘armouring’ pattern in response to ongoing stress, regardless of whether that stress is physical, emotional or psychological in origin.
- “Earlier on the day, I had completed a Pilates class, then went along for an oesteo appointment (pains in my right shoulder, and my right hip which I have had for 3 months and tried a number of things to fix, though nothing seemed to be working.) When the session first started, I was sitting on the floor and couldn’t get comfortable, with my hip still aggravating me. After completing the exercises, which was an amazing feeling, we sat back up on our mats for a discussion and to my amazement I no longer had any pain in my hip. (I did keep moving around to find it, but it wasn’t there.) In the couple of days that followed, the pain hasn’t returned to my hip or shoulder. I am so happy that I have been introduced to these exercises and will continue to do them.”
Carolyn Gray, Pilates Attendee.
While the symptoms appear in the periphery of the body as chronic muscular tension and pain, this armouring pattern is initiated from the deep core of the body including the brain stem and iliopsoas complex – the true core muscles of the body deep in the abdominals at the front of the spine.
At its extreme, this defensive muscle pattern flexes the body forwards into the foetal position. For many people it is continually mildly activated through ongoing psychological and emotional stress resulting in a range of poor postural adaptations including hunching the upper back, poking the head forwards, excessive arching of the lower back, tightness in the groin and rounding the shoulders.
While these positions of themselves create chronic tension and pain, there is also a reduction in the range and freedom of movement as the body becomes stiffer, more rigid and less adaptable to new movement and positions. A classic example of this chronic static, rigid, holding tension is when people are unable to sleep on different beds or pillows without triggering a severe pain reaction.
Core Release Exercises is another name for the tension releasing process used to engage people with chronic stress, tension and pain who have not experienced severe or life threatenting trauma (known as ‘hard’ traumas) but may not understand the impact of stress, ‘soft’ trauma or psychological or emotional overwhelm on their physical condition.
Stress is simply another name for ‘soft’ trauma.
A ‘soft’ trauma is any experience that is overwhelming or stressfull which triggers defensive muscle tension patterns and creates chronic holding, tension and pain. Soft trauma’s include any ongoing stressful situation such as growing up in a dysfunctional family environment, bullying at school, work stress, exposure to family violence, conflict and alcoholism. Any situation that is stressful or overwhelming be it pscyhological, emotional or physical in nature, is traumatic for our bodies on some scale.
An example of a traumatic experience seen as a ‘normal’ part of life is trauma during giving birth. Many women report extreme experiences of overwhelming emotions, dissociating (going off in their minds to ‘somewhere else’ and having no memory of parts of the birth process) and even uncontrolled shaking during or after giving birth (neurogenic tremors in action!) but dismiss these experiences as normal and simply what everyone experiences, without realising the birth was a traumatic event and without ever discharging
When the body is held in an ongoing (mild) state of stress, the fight or flight mechanism initiated by the sympathetic nervous system is always slightly on, sending blood and energy away from the core replensighing areas of the body including the organs, digestive system and bone marrow, to the peripheral muscles to prepare the body to fight or flee. With the body chronically held in this guarded state gradually increasing tension over the years and allowing less and less movement we end up with a chronically stiff and rigid body that no longer adapts to movement and new positions such as sleeping on a different pillow or in a different bed.
While many people simply think of this progression of stiffness in the body of normal ageing – more often it is a sign of chronic tension and guarding held in the body through the accumulation of ongoing life stressors never release through fighting or fleeing as it is often culturally innapropriate to act out this physiological response the body has primed us for.
Take the experience of bullying at schools – while the child’s body may prime itself to flee the situation or fight it is obviously not allowed to lash out or flee the schoolyard. At best the child may be allowed to verbally express this response as outrage, shouting or anger but generally the physical tension created in response to the situation is never discharged. If the child were to begin shaking as the body’s natural way of discharging this energy it would most often be suppressed in order to not show the child was feeling scared or overwhelmed.
In the school yard, while the bullying may not occur every day, the inflictors may still be present resulting in a child being chronically in a state of hyperalert with their body then chronically in a state of mild defense creating the resultant defensive muscle tension patterns resulting in stiffness, tension or even pain.
Core Release Exercises release this chronic tension and holding to return the body to a more calm, relaxed and balanced state. WIth onoing practice they result in a gradual return to more free flowing, controlled and stable movement through the entire body with an increasing return of flexibility and suppleness.
Core Release Exercises can also be specifically used as an effective sports recovery tool, minimising the general body soreness and tension immediately after a game. More to come on that later….