Core and Vulnerability
It seems in every movement class, teachers are always talking about how critical core stability and engagement is. Even if you don't take classes, you have probably been told to do so either to achieve perfect posture, a flat stomach, or to protect your back.
I've always had a very tight stomach, but what I thought was toned abs turned out to be a whole mess of tension and stress. I grew up in a household where I was constantly on guard, and as a result have a hypersensitive fight/flight/freeze response, which means that I walk around with my core and muscles hyper tense, ready to run at any second. This was exacerbated by living in an incredibly stressful conflict zone, where I was constantly on guard and worried about being kidnapped or blown up (a story for another post). Learning to relax my core has been a very, very long process.
In August, I took a restorative yoga class with very gentle twists and stretching. At the end of the class, I used a bolster to do a psoas release during savasana, and I felt my body sink into the floor! It was like the floor was taking away all of that stress and saying "here, let me worry about that for you, you relax." This was the first time I can ever remember my stomach muscles letting go.
At the same time, I was working my way through Alignment Matters. I've already read all of Katy Bowman's other books, many of the blog posts, and listened to every single podcast episode, so when I read about not sucking it in, this wasn't the first time I'd heard the information. In the past, I had written it off because I truly couldn't tell that I was sucking my stomach in. A lot it turns out. I let my stomach relax, and then let it relax EVEN more. This was such an "aha!" moment for me. 10th times the charm? My stomach relaxed in this way that it literally never has in about 20 years.
Even though this is extremely uncomfortable (both physically and emotionally) for me, it feels like a huge step on my journey to healing. It's like that action of releasing my abdominal muscles also released every pent up and suppressed emotion I've ever had. While I found many blog posts about it being okay and normal to feel emotional, and even cry, during a yoga class, there doesn't seem to be any resources on how to process the resulting emotions. Many of these pieces vaguely imply to just let them flow through you or to let yourself cry it out, but what if it's something bigger than that, or takes more time than that? I have a long way to go and need to constantly remind myself to relax, but I'm planning on doing a daily abdominal massage with Jill Miller's coregeous ball, some dance therapy, and some guided mediation (like this one) to work on really reconnecting and healing myself. As I find things that work, I'll write another post so that maybe future crying yogis have more resources on how to process their experience or where to find guidance.
Do you also carry stress and tension in your midsection? Have you ever felt emotional during a movement class? What has helped you in your healing journey? I'd love to hear any breakthroughs you've had in the comments!