It’s the beginning of a new week & a new theme! This week I’m focusing on the core in my classes. This is the fourth week in my Yoga from Head to Toe series this summer. Each week I’m zooming in on one section of the body, and exploring how it works in yoga, how we can strengthen it and stretch it, and how it works anatomically. In this post I’m going over a few yoga postures that use the core.
Hint: It’s almost all of them. From standing postures to balancing poses to belly-down spine strengtheners, the band of muscles wrapping around your midsection are used in almost every yoga pose. That makes sense since these muscles help us stabilize. Their position in between the legs and the torso makes them perfectly suited to coordinate what the top and bottom halves of the body are doing. Some core muscles help us twist; others lift the hip bones for an anterior tilt in the pelvis; still others help lift the tailbone for an anterior tilt.
Now obviously you’re not using your core much in a restorative-style class, when the point is to relax every muscle. But even then there are core muscles engaged in breathing. Here are a few more functions the core muscles serve for us:
- Postural support (BTW a strong core is a good way to avoid sitting pain & injuries)
- Protection for the internal organs
- To facilitate coughing, waste release, singing, vomiting, and childbirth, as well as breathing.
How are these muscles situated in the body? Well, we’ll get more into the anatomy in an upcoming post, but for now I will say that the muscles are strong in the same way that plywood is strong. In plywood, the fibers of wood are situated facing multiple directions. This makes the whole structure stronger. Similarly, our core muscles run different directions for added strength. The external obliques run down and forward along the front of the body; the internal obliques are situated upward and forward; and the transverse abs run side-to-side. This gives us strength and grace no matter which direction we move.
I would also emphasize that the core muscles are not just on the front of the body. Think of them as a band of muscles running all the way around your middle, like a corset.
Here are a few yoga postures that can help build a strong core:
Plank / Side Plank / Reverse Plank
Arm Balances – crow, hurdler’s pose, etc.
Inversions – headstand, handstand, etc.
Yoga breathing exercises such as Ujjayi breath can also improve abdominal strength and finesse. In my classes this week I will also be focusing on activating the bandhas (energetic locks) for protection & increased core strength.