If you search, you can find many styles of yoga such as power yoga, core yoga, core vinyasa yoga, yogalates, and even other core themed fitness classes such pilates, etc. What do these all have in common? Not surprisingly, development of the core.
The muscles of your “core” or “center” are there to provide stability for your spine. In Pilates, these muscles are appropriately called “the powerhouse.” In the martial arts traditions that I have studied, core musculature is also central, providing a source of power for executing techniques. The core is also a focus of many popular yoga styles, such as “core power yoga” and other forms of vinyasa yoga.
Without detailing every muscle and its corresponding name, the “core” can roughly be thought of as all the muscles comprising your torso, although we generally think of the core as only the “abs.” This vital group of muscles supports your spine and helps keep the integrity of your posture, thus acting to prevent injury from everyday activities. A weak core can put undo stress on other joints, such as the knee and ankle joints. A strong core can make functional movements easier and safer, and make you feel stronger than you ever thought possible. It can also help with balance, mood, and confidence. There is simply no getting around it---your core is at the core of everything you do!
I have been teaching a lot more about the core lately because I am healing from a low back injury that I sustained from years of running. I have found that Pilates-inspired movements, Aikido, and specific hatha yoga postures have been therapeutic for me, as well as for others with similar injuries. My class---a slow vinyasa class-- includes floor exercises and emphasizes engaging the core in all postures both standing and supine. This is to help build deep awareness of our core muscles, as well as build and strengthen them. One of our teachers (Stephanie, Thursday 6:30 pm) is also a Pilates teacher and fitness trainer with excellent knowledge of how to improve core strength and stability. Do your core a favor and adopt a focused core yoga practice. You will certainly notice the benefits.