Thursday, May 3, 2012
A strong core provides a lot of benefits to a yoga asana practice. I love that it helps make some challenging poses like bakasa (crow pose), adho mukha vrksasana (handstand) and astravakrasana (eight angle pose) more accessible. I've been taken with handstand for sometime now and I'm ready to get serious about pressing up verses kicking up. But, to do that I'm going to need more core strength.
So, for the month of May I'm going to challenge my core. Are you up for the challenge? Inspired by a yogi friend and fellow teacher, I'm going to do core exercises every day in May. I'm hoping that this will lay the foundation for a breakthrough with handstand, but a stronger core will have lots of other benefits.
The core muscles located on the front AND back of the body, help align the spine, ribs and pelvis. They help to fuel the energy center of Manipura Chakra , the fire center. This chakra bridges the upper and lower chakras providing energy to all of them. Think of it as the central heating furnace in your home. The stronger the core, the more energy to be shared. Knowing how to activate and connect to that energy can help you draw upon the energy when needed.
These muscles also protect the spine and abdominal organs, create stability and balance in the body, and good facilitate posture. I'm all for that. The strength of the core allows your body to safely complete daily tasks like picking up children, turning around to pass something and playing sports. Finally, there's the vanity factor. Let's face it, who doesn't feel a little better in jeans or a swimsuit when your core is tightened and toned.
To keep it interesting, here are some of my favorite core exercises. If you're up for the challenge, try for 108 or 108 seconds depending on the work. It can be done all at one time or break it up throughout the day. Be sure to counter your core work with a nice stretch. Bhujangasana (cobra pose) or a reclined twist will usually feel good and provide some relief after core work.
Begin in navasana (boat pose), with and inhale transition to ardha navasana, exhale back to navasana.
Hands can be on the ground for support, you can also keep the toes on the ground and extend one leg at a time.
Parsva navasana (side boat pose), shift weight to the left glute, reach hands to the right, find the same transition to ardha navasana keeping the weight on the left and hand to the right. Be sure to switch and do the other side.
Row the boat – begin in navasana with hands at heart center. Turn to the right and dip the right elbow down in a rowing motion, then take the same motion on the left side. Continue to alternate from right to left.
Find vasistasana (plank pose) and hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Knees can be down on the ground, but continue to engage the core. Forearms can also be down.
Utthita Vasistasana (extended plank). Find vasistasana and lift the right toes off the ground, actively press out the ball of the right foot. Repeat on the left side.
Side Vasistasana (side plank). Balancing on one stagger the feet one in from of the other or stack. For additional challenge, hover the top foot off the ground.
Recline, keep the hips on the ground and reach the feet up, so the legs make a 90* angle with the body. Slowly, lower one leg at a time to hover off the floor.
Knees can be bent and hands can be placed under the hips for support.
Extend arms over the head.
Add a twisting motion, bring the hands to the back of the head, elbows and twist toward the top leg (i.e. left leg lowers, twist to the right), hands can also extend.
Reverse the action by hovering the feet and then lifting one at a time to 90*.
Find sirsasana (headstand) and hover the legs in a tuck or pike position. ***Please do not attempt if you are unstable in sirsasana or have ANY neck issues.***