Your body is a unique pressure system, and your core (think: abdominal wall, back body spinal stabilizers, diaphragm, and pelvic floor) are in charge of regulating this pressure system through BREATH, based on its needs for physical output of energy and how to best protect your spine amidst whatever physical demands are upon you.
So, from your pelvic floor, the very bottom of your core, all the way up and through the abdominal wall (lots of muscles here!) and around to your back, muscles are working to contract and expand to help your body do what it needs to do. When you’re lifting something very heavy, you’ll need to forcefully exhale to contract these muscles to a greater degree to protect your spine. But when you’re holding crescent lunge in yoga, you do need some tension in your system to keep you aligned and upright, but not as much as you would need if you were lifting your one rep max weight in a deadlift.
Now, consider this: as you exhale, the most prominent thing you do is draw your belly button towards your spine. What do you think might happen to this cylinder of your core that works together through inhalation and exhalation to provide the perfect amount of tension in the body to support the demands placed on it?
Crushing your core from the middle keeps the whole system from working effectively and efficiently together as one resulting in almost no support and a high likelihood of compensation.
The next time you “engage your core” notice what you do first: do you draw your belly button to your spine out of habit?
Want to practice other ways to engage your core? I’ll see you in class!