Thursday, July 10, 2014

Searching for my Core

A few selections from Merriam-Webster for the word core:

-    a central and often foundational part usually distinct from the enveloping part by a difference in nature
-    the usually inedible central part of some fruits
-    a vertical space in a multistory building
-    the internal memory of a computer
-   the central part of a celestial body usually having different properties from the surrounding parts
-    the conducting wire with its insulation in an electric cable
-    a basic, essential, or enduring part
-    the inmost or most intimate part

I keep searching for my core.  In my search I begin to wonder if perhaps I am searching for the core.  Or, maybe I am searching for a core.  It seems it should be easy to find given how much it is talked about in and out of the world of modern postural yoga and other forms of physical practices and therapies.  Instead however, I find it rather elusive. 

I still remember first learning about the four abdominal muscles and the importance of building strength in them.  The long one in the front, the rectus abdominus had its day of popularity when everyone wanted to have six-pack abs.  But the rectus can create problems if it is over strengthened in relationship to the other three, the internal and external obliques and the transverse abdominus. 

The transverse is a bit more popular lately thanks to its relationship to the pelvic floor. When everything is working properly, the transverse and the pelvic floor muscles work together to lift and create stability in the spine. Perhaps this is a bit closer to the elusive core since the pelvic floor is the location of our first chakra, or root chakra, that part of our energetic system in yoga that connects us to the earth and our basic needs:  “a central and often foundational part.”

I am always sure the psoas must be part of this search for the core.  How can it not be? As Ida Rolf points out, the psoas connects the legs to the spine.  The psoas attaches to all the lumbar vertebrae and moves right through the pelvis to the leg, coming very close to the pelvic floor. The psoas, as my dear friend Yoko has said, is like a river of energy in the body. It is also a muscle the sometimes holds our basic fears.  When we contract in fear, the psoas contracts: “the internal memory of a computer.” 

Alas I may still be searching a bit too superficially. Perhaps the core is actually the sushumna, a central energetic channel spoken of particularly in kundalini and hatha yoga, although the chakra system and nadis are referred to quite broadly in many yoga styles:  “a vertices space in a multistory building, the conducting wire with its insulation in an electric cable.”  The spine is an obvious place to look. Not just the spine but inside the spine where one finds the spinal cord. Inside the spinal cord one finds the cerebrospinal fluid.  As it turns out, the same cerebrospinal fluid is found in the billions of fine collagen fibril tubes that are part of our connective tissue: “the inmost or most intimate part.”

The collagen fibril tubes are very small.  And as one looks deeper by looking smaller, we find more and more space.  The nucleus of an atom is very small relative to the space that the electrons use to roam around the nucleus and bond with other atoms.  I imagine that as I search for my core or the core I end up in a world of atoms and subatomic particles that appear much like that of outer space and celestial bodies.  At this point, I always feel I am going deeper and smaller and suddenly find myself looking into some beyond we call outer space, an expansive place.

The celestial bodies, including our earth, all have a core: “the central part of a celestial body usually having different properties from the surrounding parts.”  The core of the earth is believed to be solid.  The core of a star is a region where “the temperature and pressures are sufficient to ignite nuclear fusion, converting atoms of hydrogen into atoms of helium, and releasing a tremendous amount of heat.” (http://www.universetoday.coma). The star we call our sun for example. 

In my search, I lose the sense of my core into a feeling of a core, a core among many cores, a world of mystery and beauty beyond the scope of my imagination and yet tantalizing me to keep imagining. I can understand the attraction of both those who look out into the night sky through powerful lenses and those who look deep into the body or the earth with powerful lenses.   

I continue to work with my physical body as I experience it, amused by my search for a core. I look for that most often quoted sutra of finding ease and steadiness in posture and I suspect it comes from that elusive core but is so clearly not limited to the definitions we give it.