The only times that I’ve had anything closely resembling defined abdominal muscles is after I’ve had a good, old fashioned breakup or an über dehydrating case of the flu. In neither of those situations do I give a hoot about what my abs look like (Okay, I give a little hoot.). But having defined abs will probably never be something that I preach the importance of. In fact, for me it’s not something I’m trying to achieve because when I have a smaller, tighter tummy I also have smaller…other curves…and I’d rather keep my other curves. Core strength on the other hand is a different animal and I will preach the benefits of having it until I’m dead. For me, good posture has always been a struggle. I think it’s a product of not appreciating all 5 feet 11 inches of me until I got to college. Increasing my core strength improves my posture and helps with my mild lower back pain that I’ve just always had and what I think I can attribute to my poor (but improving!) posture. Improving the asana (posture) part of my yoga practice is also something that I’m working on. Asana isn’t the most important part of my practice, but yoga is my game and I’d like to improve every aspect of it. Increasing core strength helps with just about everything with my practice and I kind of want to say that it just helps everything in my life, but I’ll have to think about that a little more before I just SAY that. Okay… Here’s a little core strengthening practice for you. Hold each posture for 5 long, steady, deep breaths. Repeat 3 times and think happy thoughts while you’re doing it, okay? It helps.
Navasana (Boat Pose): Have a seat and connect your ischiums (“Itch Your Bum” is how I remember the name of those bones from my Human Bio days) also called ‘sits bones’ to your mat. Make sure you’re not rolling back onto your tail bone. Draw your lower belly in towards the front of your spine and lift up through your heart. Lift your gaze slightly. Everything lifts. The elevation of your toes off your mat isn’t as important as maintaining proper form in your low belly and back and staying on your ischiums. The moment you feel yourself rocking back onto your tailbone then ease off a bit. 5 breaths…
Plank: Bring your shoulders and hips to about the same level. Draw your lower belly in towards the front of your spine. Press away from the mat through your palms. Thinking of this as a pressing away helps to lift up and out of the joints of your arms rather than sinking into them. Create space. Draw your shoulder blades down your spine. And don’t let your shoulders eat your neck! Again, create space. Activate the whole front side of your body. Lift your gaze slightly forward. Now for those 5 breaths… Modifications: Come down to your forearms and or come down onto your knees.
Side Plank: Bring your right hand to the center of your mat. Align your right shoulder slightly behind your right wrist rather than stacking your shoulder directly above your wrist. Roll onto the knife edge (the outer edge) of your right foot and stack your left foot on top of your right foot. Lower belly is still drawn in. Press away from the mat through your right palm. Reach up towards the sky with your left hand. Imagine creating the same amount of space from your right shoulder to your neck as from your left shoulder to your neck. Create space and lift up and out of your right shoulder where the natural tendency might be to close off and munch in. Bring your gaze where it’s comfortable for you. It kinda bothers my neck to look up at my left finger tips so I look down at my right thumb. 5 breaths… Then switch sides. Modifications: Bring your lower knee down onto your mat and/or come down to your forearm.
Tiger Pose: from plank, exhale and lower your knees until they are hovering millimeters above your mat. Inhale back to plank. Exhale to Tiger Pose. All the while keeping your low belly drawn into the front of your spine. Move with your breath. Gaze lifts slightly towards the top your your mat. 5 breaths. Modification: Come down to your forearms.
Repeat all of that core deliciousness 3 times.
That was a lot of time on our wrists, so, flex, roll, and shake them out. Counter postures are a must in all of your practice. Let’s not forget about our dear little wrists.
Come all the way down onto your belly and let yourself be as long as you can be. Melt into you mat and breathe. Good job, friends! Happy core strength to you!
Juicy Jam Session: Djon Maya Maï by Synapson. Mmmmmm…. I love this song. It’s only 3 minutes long which is too short for how groovy it is, but it’s PERFECT for your daily core strengthening practice. Just go until the beat stops.