I went to a yoga class recently and it was STRONG. By which I mean it was really hard. An intermediate to advance level class, not marketed as such but – yeah – it was. Everyone was doing all these intense poses, and I realised how much I need to work on my core strength.
See, the challenging poses in yoga – the arm balances and inversions and such – often whittle down to one thing. Core strength. Really, a lot of challenging things in life come down to that.
Core strength: more than just abs
If you’d asked me three or four months ago how my core strength was I would have told you it was pretty good. May even have bragged about it. And it is good compared to some peoples’, but not so much compared to others. That’s okay, though, everything in life is that way.
This isn’t a post about wanting to do challenging poses, and how I’m going to do more core workouts to build up the strength. I mean it sort of is about that, but it goes deeper too.
The real thing is I’m scared to do a lot of those poses. Scared of hurting myself, falling flat on my face. Although I’ve mostly gotten over the fear of looking like a fool, and am willing to have a go, I realised in that class I may have a fear of inhabiting my own strength.
As I was kicking one leg into the air and noticing how much power is needed to do a handstand (something little kids make look so easy, but that I never did because I was scared) I realised this is about a different kind of strength too. Because my core is strong, stronger than many and I know I can work on it. But whilst working my transvers abdominal, rectus abdominis and obliques I also need to be working my inner strength.
Manipura Chakra: the seat of your power
The core, the navel centre, is the seat of Manipura Chakra. Manipura can be translated as city of gems; it is home of our sense of self, how we express ourselves in the world and the seat of our personal power. This is why, if you’ve ever felt that horrible inner feeling of no confidence/self-doubt/shame, you feel it here. At your navel, in your gut, the jeweled seat of your power.
I’ve been working on developing confidence for years, and who knows maybe it’s a life’s journey. But this realisation during my yoga practice is promising. Fear, strengthening the body to strengthen the subtle, energetic, emotional body – it’s all connected. Knowing that I’m scared of inhabiting my inner strength/power/confidence and letting it guide me gives me a direction to go in. And considering how there may be a symbiotic relationship between developing the muscular, and the more subtle core strength is a comfort. That’s one of the things I love about yoga; the mind and the body stretch and grow together, in tandem. Never one first and then the other; always together.
A meditation practice to tune into the seat of your power
Here’s a meditation practice I’ve been trying whilst working on building my inner strength.
Manipura chakra is associated with the element of fire, so light one or many candles. To start taking the focus inwards start with some Tratak (fire gazing). Sit in a comfortable seated position and gaze at the flame of the candle, begin to tune into your breath. Notice the inhalation filling the body, and the exhale emptying out. Cultivate diaphragmatic breathing (balloon breath) by sending the inhale deep into the belly, inflating it like a balloon. Do this for 5 breaths, then close the eyes and take the focus inwards towards your navel centre.
Imagine a yellow light glowing at your navel centre (yellow is the colour associated with Manipura chakra). Continue breathing deeply and noticing this yellow light which slowly starts to grow. Imagine this light growing stronger, and bigger, filling your whole navel centre and beaming out of you. When it has grown to its fullest extent chant the seed sound of this chakra: RAM. Chant it three times, and when you’ve finished feel the vibrations moving through you.
Finish the meditation by returning to gaze at the fire. You may want to repeat a simple mantra to yourself such as “I am strong” before closing.