Thursday, December 1, 2005

above down, inside out

The dantian, or navel point, is located in the lower abdomen two inches below the belly button. It is supposedly the center of gravity, from which all movement and power originates.

In Pilates and yoga both the navel point is crucial; it's where that nebulous "core" or "powerhouse" is located. When in Pilates classes you're told to bring your navel towards your spine, you're creating a "container" of sorts--you're activating the lumbar multifidus, the deep spinal muscles under the erectors, and the transversus abdominus, the deep abdominal muscles under the "six-pack" rectus abdominus. Those two vertical muscles sandwich the core, and the horizontal "lids" of the container--the respiratory diaphragm and pelvic floor--give the core the potential for dynamic movement. That container allows free movement of the extrinsic muscles around the body at the same time as building up, springlike, power for movement.

In yoga, the navel point is referenced when bandhas, or yogic locks, are spoken of. Pulling up the rectum and genital muscles is the first, or root lock; pulling the navel point towards the spine activates the second, diaphragm lock. Activating the second lock will automatically activate the first. The third lock is at the neck; it involves straightening the neck by bringing the sternum slightly up towards the chin (another important Pilates move--during the all-important "Pilates hundred" as well as other abdominal exercises, it's encouraged to lock the chin as if holding an egg underneath it).

Basically, when you activate those three locks in yoga or Pilates, you're creating a bunch of horizontal "lids" as well as solidifying the sides to the container by using those deep core muscles. When the body is stabilized in this way, it's like you create a super-solid grounding within yourself--you give your center a context, a definition, and from there you can have infinite power and outward expansion. Plus, having a physical sense of core here also forces energy to come up the spinal pathway, freeing up all sorts of blockages and, in yogic theory, opening a person up for spiritual evolution.

In kundalini yoga, it's said that when you move and speak from the navel point, you can be 100% behind an action or statement. The navel point is the place around which your fetus shaped itself--the center of your physical orbit, and where, if you re-connect there, you remember yourself. A strong navel point will create an open heart center, so moving from there comes first. 

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