Oh yes…who doesn’t like flat abs and lean back muscles!? Everyone does! But targeting your core during your practice and getting REAL results seems hard or maybe unachievable for some, but I assure you that is the furthest thing from the truth! For me the secret lies in focusing on the function of these specific muscle groups and not just the aesthetics in order to achieve the maximum benefits.
FUNCTION OF THE CORE MUSCLES
The core muscles consist of the Lumbar muscles (back muscles), Abdominal muscles (abs) and the Hip Complex (Gluts, Psoas etc). These muscle groups work together to provide protection to your spine during movements. While the abdominal muscles contract (shortens) the muscles of the back muscles stretch (lengthens) but they remain active to continue spinal support and when the back muscles contract (shortens) the abdominal muscles are stretched ( lengthened) keeping the spine safely between them. The stronger your core muscles the more stress (work/movement) your spine can withstand, therefore, providing you with more protection during your practice and in everyday life. After all a strong and flexible spine is a secret to good health!
The hip complex includes the psoas, which are on of the bodies’ strongest muscles because it (as well as the spine) is the connection between the upper body and the lower body. Almost any body movement you do, the psoas are being used, so strengthening these muscles are crucial to having a healthy core!
YOGA POSTURES FOR CORE STRENGTH
These asanas will help to strengthen your core muscles if they are done regularly during your practice.
Boat Pose – Navasana
Begin in a seated position, back straight, contract your abs (pull in the navel in toward the spine) use your chest space for breathing, not the stomach
Slowly leaning backward, feet on the floor, keeping your back straight, find the balance on the sitting bones
Slowly raise your feet off the floor one at a time, (knees can be bent or straight)
Extend the arms forward keeping them parallel to the floor(Hold for 15 seconds) then return to sitting position
Downward Facing Dog – Adho Mukha Savasana
Downward Facing Dog – Adho Mukha Svanasana
Three Legged Dog – Adho Mukha Savasana Variation
Begin on all fours (hands and knees), Press your palms into the floor as you raise your hips and straighten your knees into down dog
Keep your shoulders strong and abs sucked in as you lift your right leg (Hold for 15 seconds)
Lower the right leg, now raise the left leg (Hold for 15 seconds)
Plank Pose – Vasisthasana
Begin in plank pose, palms flat, extend your body and project through your heels
Put your feet together
Shift your weight to your right hand, and roll onto your right side
Then stack your feet left on top of right(Beginners: keep right foot on the mat, keep left foot straight)
Keep your shoulders strong, navel sucked in toward the spine as you life the left arm overhead in a straight line with the right arm (Hold for 15 seconds)
Repeat on the left side
Begin in a seated position, legs simply crossed or in Lotus Pose
Palms on the floor next to your hips, contract your abs
Pushing through your palms and forearms lift your legs and butt off the floor (Hold for 15 seconds)
Begin in Chair pose (Standing upright with legs together, knees bent)
Lift your hands out in front of you, palms facing eachother, parallel to the floor
Shift your weight to your right leg, lifting your left foot off the floor
Contract your abs, keeping the body strong and activated as you slowly lean forward
Lift the left leg backward, simultaneously straightening the right leg (Hold for 15 seconds)
Repeat on the left leg
Always be mindful of your posture as well as your alignment throughout your practice and your daily life for added benefit and safety.
**Consult a doctor before beginning an exercise regime.**