So here's a big yoga secret I share with my students: it's all about the core. When you see yogis pressing into headstand, playing with variations in handstand, floating from lunges into and out of standing balance poses, the core is kicking on and working big time.
It's not about bulging quads, ripped arms, or even washboard abs. Developing the super deep core muscles that run along the spine is where a lot of strength and power comes from. Not to mention the fact that "core" also includes the back and obliques.
Here are four awesome poses to make sure the front, side, and back core muscles are getting their workout on.
1. High Plank
The beauty of this pose is that it works the whole body, and first and foremost it's an ab scorcher. Align your shoulders over your wrists. Give the shoulder blades a slight squeeze toward one another while continuously pushing the mat away. Press out long through your heels and make sure your quads are engaged and hugging toward one another. Here's the core action: make sure your hips aren't tenting upward or hammocking down. Hips should be in line between the crown of the head and your heels. Draw your tailbone toward your heels AND draw your belly button toward your spine. Feel it yet? Oh yeah! (To modify, set up in high push-up and then bring your knees down. Hips should now be in line between your knees and head. To modify for wrist problems, come to the forearms.)
From downward facing dog, bring your forearms to the mat. Just like in plank and downdog, shoulder blades hug toward one another, press through the heels, and hug your belly button in toward your spine. If you're not feeling anything, start to walk your feet toward your elbows. Maybe even play with lifting one foot and then the other. Not only is this great for building core strength, but you're also building shoulder strength, prepping for forearmstand, and opening your heart and shoulders! (To modify, come into forearm plank.)
3. Side Plank
Here's the takeaway for you: anything with the word "plank" in it is going to be a core strength-building pose! But seriously. In this instance, from high plank, bring your right hand directly under your shoulder. Roll to the outside edge of your right foot, and bring the arches of both feet together. Your left hand will reach toward the sky, stacking your shoulders on top of each other. Arch your hips up. Feel stable? Lift your left leg! Yeah, obliques! (To modify: bring your right knee down to the mat.)
4. Boat Pose
Though this pose is, whew, hard, it can be fun! Fun?! Yes! … Start seated with your feet flat on the mat and your hands grabbing behind your knees. Start to lift one foot, bringing that shin parallel to the mat. Maybe you stay here and switch back-and-forth between sides. If you feel stable, lift both feet. Maybe you stay here with both shins parallel to the mat and holding behind your knees. If you can hold here without rolling back onto your tailbone, release your knees. Maybe you straighten your legs! Once this is part of your practice, you can totally play! Into and out of half-boat, or V-sits (lowering halfway and popping back up), Russian twists (bringing your hands down next to your hip and then switching sides), grabbing your big toes and trying to kiss your shins… Aka, have fun with it! 🙂
Add these poses to your yoga or strength building routine, and see what happens! I think you'll be amazed at how much more stable and strong you'll feel!
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