Yoga builds core strength! Yes it does, inner and outer core strength. Your breath is a key element to working with your core. On the inhale the core softens and expands, and on the exhale it firms and contracts. As you breath out you compact the body's core allowing it to move as one unit initiated by the belly. The core is not one specific muscle though, but a range of muscles that work together to support your spine and pelvis. Your core provides balance and stability.
Many people have a limited perspective on core strength. Think, "six pack abs". This is the rectus abdominus - the most superficial abdominal muscle that creates the appearance of a six-pack. We don't often think of the deeper transverse abdominus muscle which provides constant strength and stability.
And what about the respiratory diaphragm? This muscle is truly at the core of the body. The diaphragm is the core muscle that initiates every breath. It separates the thoracic cavity from the abdominal cavity. Our breath is our connection to life, and when this connection is unrestricted and strong, we are stronger, physically and mentally.
The physical focus of our practice this month was a balanced approach to core strength. From a yogic perspective, our core is who we are; therefore the broader focus was finding a deep inner strength that supports everything we do. Our story; Core strength supports me.
We began with belly breathing. You can do this siting in easy pose or reclining in relaxation pose. Place your hands on your lower belly and notice the belly rise on the inhalation and sink on the exhalation. Keep the inhales and exhales the same length. Let the breath be unrestricted and the belly relaxed.
The belly is considered to be our center of power, our core. Breathing into the belly will bring focused strength into your practice. Imagine the inhalation as an act of deep inner core strength, and the exhale as an act of outer core strength. Stay here for a few minutes then try the following poses to build inner and outer core strength.
Triangle to Floating Triangle; a simple but challenging pose
From Triangle move into Floating Triangle by bringing both arms closer together reaching out from the shoulders to the fingertips, palms facing, hold for 3 breaths. Return to standing and repeat on the opposite side.
One leg Plank with a Crunch
Level 1; from table pose, inhale and lift the left foot, exhale and bring your knee in towards your chin pulling the belly in tight for a crunch. Inhale and straighten the leg behind you, exhale knee to chin. Repeat 5 times then switch sides. Remember the breath!
Level 2; from plank pose, inhale and lift the left foot, hold for 1 breath then exhale and bring the left knee to the left elbow for a side crunch. Inhale to extend, exhale knee to elbow. Repeat 5 times then switch sides.
Know that you can find deep core strength anytime. You have the ability to focus attention on the breath and guide the mind away from worries or other distractions. May you develop a strong and steady breath as you focus on a core strength practice that balances traditional fitness of abdominal strength with deep inner strength.
Mahalo, we serve.