What does ‘Core’ mean?
It seems that ‘core’ has become a sort of short hand for something that we all understand in some way but is very hard to define. If you look for a definition on the internet you will find thousands of different answers.
It has become an explanation for all sorts of problems, so that it’s almost a diagnosis. If we had a pound for everyone who has come into the studio and said that they’ve been told that their ‘core is weak’ we wouldn’t quite be able to retire, but maybe buy ourselves a very nice dinner! The implication is that a ‘weak core’ is the culprit in a variety of problems, especially back, shoulder and neck pain – that, if we can strengthen our core those problems will be resolved.
So what does it mean? Pilates is intended to be holistic exercise, meaning that the whole body is involved in the exercises, and Pilates was renowned for linking mind and body. From the Pilates perspective core then becomes more of an idea than a thing – a collection of muscle and tissue. It might help to think of your body as having 3 main weight centres – your pelvis, ribcage and head. The idea then is do you have conscious control of the relationships of these 3 parts? Are you able to ‘organise’ your bodyweight centres?
This is why awareness is such a big part of Pilates, and why we treat it as a key marker of progress. Strength and flexibility are very valuable, but we need awareness in order to be able to make use of our strength and flexibility appropriately. When we can do that, all will be well with our ‘core’.