Is Navel-to-Spine the best signal? – Jenni Rawlings Yoga and movement


While these ideas about the core may seem to make sense on the surface, when we look closer, we begin to see that the underlying logic is really flawed.

On the one hand, although research suggests that basic stability exercises may help with back pain, research too suggests that basic stability exercises only help general exercises for back pain. It turns out that overall movement can be great for back pain. In most cases, this move probably doesn’t need to be looked at in a specific way (i.e., specially targeted basic stability exercises like bird dogs and dead insects). Even walking has been shown to be effective in reducing back pain!

Also, remember the research 20 years ago that showed people with back pain also had a delay in core muscle shooting? Although people interpreted this as meaning that these delays in muscle shooting caused back pain of these people (and therefore everyone should practice abdominal stretching and core stability exercises), the reality is that this research did they don’t really show it! The investigation only showed a correlation between back pain and these delays in muscle shooting – not proven causality.

In fact, it could just as easily be the case with the muscle-building delays of these people caused by his back pain. We really don’t know in any way based on this research! In fact, pain has been shown to change muscle activation patterns in other research, so it is no exaggeration to imagine that this could explain the correlation observed in the research. Therefore, the basic belief that delays in muscle firing cause back pain and should be counteracted with a navel involvement in the spine is a hypothesis that should be questioned.

But this is not all!

Subsequent research investigated which muscles are involved in spinal stability and found that spinal stabilization is at global work coordinated by all muscles of the trunk, not just the transverse muscles of the abdomen and the multifidus. In addition, the requirements for spinal stabilization are dynamic and constantly changing depending on the movement task to be performed. And this whole complex process is coordinated reflexively (automatically) by our sophisticated nervous system on time.

With that in mind, is teaching students how to stretch the navel toward the spine the most effective way to help them create spine stability? If spinal stabilization is a global work done by all the muscles in the nucleus, how is this process helping to emphasize the activation of only two individual muscles by an abdominal grip (transverse abdominis and multifidus)? It is doubtful that it is, especially considering that research has shown exactly the opposite. Actually, navel engagement in the spine decreases stability of the spine reducing the activation of the important muscles of the “outer core” which also help in stabilization!

But aside from that, another pertinent question is this: how do yoga students know how much to involve their core when they are told to stick to it? What percentage of the maximum is the correct amount? How do they know when they have reached that percentage? Does it differ depending on the movement task, or should they use the same strategy for everything? If the stability of the spine is a constantly changing and moving goal, how does a single constant contraction of the navel in the spine meet the stability requirements of all our infinitely variable movements?

Tradition versus evidence

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