After years of being told to “draw my navel into my spine” during core workouts and Pilates sessions, I’m finally ready to admit that I have no idea what that means — or really, why I’m even doing it.
Whenever an instructor would shout out the direction in a group Pilates class, typically during a set of planks, I’d quickly tense up my abs while holding my breath, or pull in my stomach, hoping I’d get a nod of approval (and therefore a long-awaited confirmation on technique) as they walked by.
I never got that nod, any correction, or clarification on the directions, so I turned to Club Pilates instructor Lorin Jetter for workout jargon translation. According to Jetter, drawing or pulling your navel into your spine is a metaphorical phrase that “simply means to engage your core and challenge your abdominal muscles.”
This leads to the question: but how do you engage your core? Luckily, Lorin came through with directions on that, too. “Exhale and think of bringing the sides of your rib cage together toward your midline, as you pull your belly button backwards toward your spine and up toward your rib basket,” she says. “Keep your core braced and continue to breathe throughout your workout!”
Lorin says to imagine feeling hugged by your abdominal muscles. “I like to think of imagining my rib cage coming together and interlacing, the same way you would interlace your fingers behind your head for abdominal work.”
A proper execution might not happen on your first go. If you’re having trouble engageing your core, Jetter recommends taking a few deep inhales and exhales and allowing your rib cage to expand and contract. On the exhale, find your engaged core. The benefit? Jetter says engageing your core will help you strengthen your abdominal muscles, while also protecting your spine.
Use this 10-minute Pilates workout, curated by Jetter, to practice engageing your core. Roll out your mat and scroll through the moves to feel the burn.