Lifting Your Breath and Expanding Your Energy Through The Core Line
Why Is The Core Line Important?
The Core Line is the ultimate pathway in the body for the breath and energy. It is both an identifiable and physical line of myofascial continuity strongly related to breathing as well as being involved in deep postural support. Working with this line using yoga asana plus breath and visualization supports good alignment, clear breathing, and can also be a doorway to deep internal experiences of energy.
What is the Core Line?
Physically, The Core Line is a meridian of connective tissues involving the feet, legs, pelvis, chest and neck.
The Core Line is surrounded by muscles which can take over for the core line's shortcomings but do so less elegantly and often coming with greater strain on the joints.
Because of the Core Line's direct relationship to breathing and energy flow it is a major focus within each practice of BreathYoga. It is at the same time the most subtle of the four principles to gain awareness of.
Where is the Core Line in the Body?
This is adapted from Tom Meyer's Anatomy Trains work, what he calls the "Deep Front Line" but here we also consider a few other structures which are particularly relevant to breathing.
More advanced practitioners of yoga can feel how on deep exhales it becomes possible to stretch the psoas muscle. According to standard anatomy texts, the psoas and the root of the diaphragm do not connect but in Anatomy Trains theory, they do. And this relationship among others can really amplify the benefits and depth of practice when one uses breathwork and yoga together.
Think of the Core Line as if you took a giant corer, pushed through the crown of the head and went straight down through the innermost core of the body. It is a meridian of slow-twitch, endurance oriented connective tissues and muscles involving the feet, legs, pelvis, chest and neck. All of these muscles listed here are intimately related to deep diaphragmatic breathing.
Feet and Legs:
This group of muscles start at the arch of the foot (Tibialis Posterior) to help lift the arch at the center of the foot and then travel along the inner thighs (adductors) to help stabilize the ankle and knee. The adductors then influence the pelvic floor and psoas muscles. If these muscles are not working well, there could be a poor arch of the foot (which influences three diaphragms of breathing above this) as well as misalignment of the knees (X-legs).
Key Poses: all standing poses where proper foot placement is emphasized, particularly the warrior poses, backbending and seated forward bends such as Upavishta Konasana, hip openers such as Baddha Konasana and Supta Padaunghastana.
Pelvis and Pelvic Floor:
After traveling up along the inside of the legs, the Core Line connects to the pelvic floor and has two tracks which bifurcate. One goes up the back of the legs and another crosses the hip joint as the Psoas muscle. They rejoin again at in the lower back and these fibers then merge with the root of the diaphragm.
This connection between the pelvic floor and the thoracic diaphragm through the psoas muscle forms a close relationship between diaphragmatic breath and the tone and movement of the pelvic floor. As the diaphragm lowers on an inhalation, the fibers of the pelvic floor and stomach have to release and elongate to make space for the downward movement of the internal organs.
These move with such synchronicity that we can think of the pelvic floor as a second diaphragm. These actions support healthy blood circulation through the internal organs. Unnecessary tension in the pelvic floor can block healthy breathing and diminish the health of the organs.
Key Poses: Pear-Cone-Wave breathing, lunges, warrior one, standing backbends, core work, balancing poses such as tree, headstand, and handstand.
Chest and Lower Back:
The Core Line then merges with the root of the diaphragm, which is the main muscle in the chest section of the Core Line. Part of the proper expansion of the chest relies upon good support from the core, including the use of the lower back extensor muscles (multifidi) to keep the lower back in its natural curve while drawing the lower navel back towards the spine (transverse abdominus). This stabilizes the chest while supporting the breathing.
Key Poses: All breathwork practices
Deep Muscles of the Neck
At the last stop physically of the Core Line we come to the deep muscles of the neck (infrahyoid and longus colli primarily). These act to balance the head on top of neck and aligns the crown of the head along the energetic core of the body.
Key Poses: alignment of the head and neck, particularly conscious use of the hyoid when doing backward bending. Headstand. Use the Neck Smile:
The Sushumna Line of Energy
The Core Line can be approached energetically as well as physically. Magickal practices such as "The Middle Pillar" where in which the practitioner visualizes a beam of light through the body, lining up the center of the feet through to the crown of the head. In hatha yoga, the line, called the "sushumna nadi" is typically visualized along the length of the spine, and has been described for at least 800 years as the royal road of enlightenment within the body. It is thought that when energy can run unimpeded along this channel that our energy body awakens and a higher state of consciousness unfolds. Many practices to awaken this channel involving breath and visualization are taught within the yoga tradition.