Yoga and the Core
Over recent years the importance of a strong core has become more and more apparent. Strong core muscles go beyond a current trend, these muscles are responsible for so much and when strong they provide many benefits.
The core muscles provide support, stability and protection. They make it possible for us to stand and sit with good alignment. They help us move from sitting to standing and from lying to sitting. In fact most movements either initiate in or pass through the core region of the body.
Bearing this in mind the link between the core and yoga becomes apparent. During yoga the core region is required for near enough every posture performed. Yoga postures will develop and improve core strength, however when practicing more demanding postures a strong core is vital to support and protect the body. This means that it is important to practise fundamental yoga postures to establish a firm foundation, with good alignment to help develop core strength.
The core muscles consist of many different muscles that run the entire length of the torso, across the pelvis and into the upper thigh. They include the deep muscles of the pelvic floor, the muscles of the lumbar region, all of the muscles of the abdominal wall, the hip flexors and the adductors and abductors in the upper thigh.
By practicing postures such as sukhasana (the easy pose), baddha konasana (bound angle pose) and dandasana (the staff), we are able to activate the deep core muscles and draw up through the pelvic floor and lower abdominal muscles to develop strength starting from the inside out. It is not necessary to perform an intense abdominal workout to increase your core strength.
Gentle abdominal crunches can be performed by lying on your back with your knees bent, hands either on your thighs or beside your head. Inhale and draw up the pelvic floor muscles as you exhale draw your navel back towards your spine and lift your shoulders just off the floor. Inhale as you lower whilst drawing up the pelvic floor. Then exhale and relax whilst drawing your navel back towards your spine and repeat the sequence again as many times as is required. Performing these small crunches with control will increase the strength of the deepest layers of the core providing support for the body.
By slowly increasing core strength, yoga practices naturally and safely progress, alignment will improve, balancing becomes easier and the risk of injury is greatly reduced.
Yoga is without a doubt fabulous for the core as it subtly and naturally integrates the core muscles into all movements, strength evolves naturally so the muscles do not fatigue and the body becomes protected and supported. A strong core will also increase energy levels raising feelings of vitality and well-being.
Lower back pain is an extremely common occurrence in adults in both the UK and US, strong core muscles will help prevent and alleviate pain and symptoms.
Sukhasana (the easy pose) is an ideal posture to start working your core muscles in.
Sukhasana is performed by sitting on the floor with the ankles crossed and a straight spine. Focus is then brought to alignment. Feel that you are growing out of the crown of your head, broaden your upper back and release your shoulders away from your ears. Lightly rest your hands onto your thighs. Breathe slowly through your nose. Lift the pelvic floor muscles as you inhale and gently draw your lower abdominal muscles up and back as you exhale. Breathe slowly as you maintain this alignment and technique.
You can also perform the same technique whilst in baddha konasana (the bound angle pose), sitting with the soles of the feet together and the knees out to the sides or dandasana (the staff), sitting with a straight spine and the legs extended with the toes pointing up.
When performing seated postures, if you experience any discomfort it is a good idea to elevate your hips by sitting on a folded towels or a yoga bolster.
"Health is wealth. Peace of mind is happiness. Yoga shows the way." - Swami Vishnu-Devananda