What is the Core?

Erin Godfrey returns to the Mindful Strength podcast to deepen the conversation on the Core and different understandings of the body.

Kathryn and Erin explore how our ideas of the core are often wrapped up with specific rules and parameters geared to keeping things safe – yet also making things rather tight and targeted. This is a wonderful conversation that challenges listeners to broaden their understandings of human movement and what exercises for the core region leave out of someone’s experience.

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About Erin Godfrey

Erin Godfrey is a movement educator and founder of BEING IN BODY. She began her career as a ballet dancer, studying with the National Ballet School of Canada, followed by studies in Anatomy and Kinesiology. Additional studies include Meditation, Pilates, Personal Training, Feldenkrais, Alexander Technique, Developmental Movement, Wellness Coaching, Anatomy Trains, Contact Improvisation and Axis Syllabus.
Erin has owned several studios in Toronto, Canada, and has been teaching movement and healthful living practices for over 20 years. An international teacher, she has been faculty on a number of teacher training programs and teaches workshops throughout Canada and the US. Erin continues her research and investigation as a movement practitioner, educator and new mother.


Podcast Summary

The Core is an often discussed part of the body – there’s an entire industry devoted to targeting and strengthening ‘the core’. Yet when you begin to ask folks “what do you think the core is?”, a whole host of different answers emerge and it becomes apparent how hard it is to parse out this specific area of the body. Kathryn and Erin Godfrey begin their discussion on the podcast with that question. Together they look at our common understandings of this region of the body and how those ideas play out in exercise + movement spaces.

When asked that question herself (what is the core?), Erin encourages people to broaden the discussion to “what do people think the body is?”. She does so to underscore this point: the idea of a core reflects a general idea of the body; that it’s something that can be separated out into these pinpoint specific parts versus one whole integrated system.  It’s a different model of the body. This can be hard for folks to wrap their heads around because these views of bodies are so commonplace, but as Erin reminds us: depending on your social-cultural-political location, there are many different ways to understand how human bodies work and function.

Erin offers up the metaphor of the body as land. Ideas like “the core” are maps that we use to distinguish and explain parts of the body that include certain aspects and likely exclude others. What if we thought of the core as a passage where momentum travels through and/or, as Erin thinks, “a rhythmic place designed to help us feel and move experiences”.  What if it was more than the torso?

Others liken it to the abdominals and the front of the body; whereas some people include the pelvic floor, the breath, pressure systems. All of these are different ideas and models.  An interesting question Erin ponders is “what happens when we use this ‘map’ versus another’” Rather than (which is often said in many movement spaces): this is the way it is.

Kathryn and Erin critically examine how there’s little space for experimentation in exercise and movement classes. Instead, many exercise programs teach rules like “engaging the core” “pulling in” or “tucking the ribs” that are designed to create a ‘hard’ core…and some of those exercises can be real hardcore (couldn’t skip that opportunity for a pun!). Interestingly, can we really isolate out parts of the body from other parts? Do we really need to consciously engage and stiffen in a certain way to be “safe” or more effective in a movement?

Erin queries these movement parameters and introduces ways in which our body, including the abdominals and other parts of us, work in an integrated and responsive manner. The human body may know how to move and shift weight, allow for the transfer of energy and momentum without there needing to be any localized focus.

The interview caps off with Erin’s approach to experimenting with the skills of coordination and load transfer through the body. She highlights specific exercises she guides people through to see how force is reorganized and integrated responsively and reflexively.

This is a highly informative episode that might have you rethinking some commonly assumed notions of the body and exercise, and peak your curiosity to start experimenting with different ways to experience movement for yourself and others.

Erin’s Links


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Another “Map” of the Core

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Article on Diaphragm

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Video on Movement Coordination

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Woman in triangle pose on a yoga mat

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