Like the roots of a tree, our core is the foundation for all of the physical postures in the Asana practice. Enjoy these exercises to help you develop an understanding of where the major core muscles are located in order to create sustainable, powerful and lasting core strength and stabilization.
Supta padangustasana – 10 reps per leg
- Lift one leg up, locking at the knee cap and start with a firm dorsiflexion through the foot. As you exhale root through the back of your head and lower the leg pushing it forward and down to hover an inch above the floor. Point the toes and with a swift inhale draw the leg up to your starting position.
- Slow exhale, flex and lower.
- Quick inhale, point and lift.
*Release with a full body stretch, legs long and to the edges of your mat, and visualize the location of your Psoas, recognizing the wonderful strengthening it has just received.
Yogic Bicycles – 20 full rounds
Lying on your back stack your knees over ankles, feet parallel to one another. Start with hands 45 degrees away from body and connect to your three points of foundation- sacrum, blades of the shoulders, back of the head.
- Exhale – extend your right leg forward as you twist to the left.
- Inhale – lower to start position.
- Exhale – extend your left leg forward as your twist to the right.
- Inhale – lower to start position
Parivritta Navasana – 1 minute/side
Start with your knees bent, toes pointed strongly down towards the mat.
- Feel your sitting bones beneath you being mindful to stay upright and avoid tipping back onto your sacrum and as you exhale, moving from your deep core, lift one leg parallel to the floor at a time. (**for a greater challenge, straighten the legs as shown in the picture above)
- Interlace your fingers, straighten your arms and bring them to the left. Hold and breath. Then switch to the right.
Makarasana (Dolphin Pose) – 1 minute hold X 3 reps
From downward facing dog, move to tabletop position (shoulders vertically stack over wrists, hips vertically stack over knees).
- Plant your elbows down under your shoulders releasing forearms to the mat. Interlace your fingers.
- Tuck your toes. Root through the forearms. Hover your knees for a moment to connect to your core feeling your naval tone in toward your spine.
- With your deep core engaged float your hips toward the sky, sitting bones pointing up to bring an anterior tilt to the pelvis and lengthen the spine.
Core Stabilizing Slides 10 reps
- Place a towel under your feet and start in ardha uttanasana (half forward fold)
- Root your naval towards your spine. Keep your hips high and as you exhale press down through the balls of the feet as you send them sliding back into plank pose.
- Hold in plank for a full breath.
- Root your naval towards your spine feeling a supportive co-contraction. Keeping this, exhale and press down strongly through the balls of the feet as you slide them back towards your hands.
Standing L Pose 1 minute hold
Standing in mountain pose, become aware of your foundation. Shift your weight into the four corners of your left foot. Root the foot into the ground below it. Keeping your pelvis neutral, draw your right thigh up parallel to the ground, ankle and shin perpendicular to that. Find a firm point to the toes.
- Interlace your hands behind your right thigh. Root your femur bone into your hands as you extend from your hip out to your foot to straighten the leg. Find a firm flex to the foot now.
- Inhale and lift the arms into the overhead plane.
- Firm your outer hips in, feeling an engagement through your transverse abdomonis.
- Soften with a smile as you lift the corners of your mouth as well.
Now lets go beyond Asana and discuss the technicals.
The deepest of the core muscles and a major breathing muscle working with the diaphragm to provide anterior spinal stability. It originates at the outside of every lumbar vertebra, travels across the pelvis in front of the pubic bone, and attaches to the inner thighbone. Being the only muscle that attaches the lower body to the upper body it acts as both a hip flexor and spinal stabilizer.
Quadratus Lumborum (QL)
A deep stabilizing muscle- the quadratus lumborum (QL) runs more or less vertically from the lower ribs to the pelvic crest. Intimately linked to the breath. Located beneath erector Spinae and classified as one of our deep core muscles.
Transverse Abdominis (TA)
Located below the obliques is the transverse abdominis (TA), a horizontal band of muscle that runs side-to-side from the rib cage to the pelvis. It draws in toward the midline, applying gentle compression to the abdominal organs. The TA is engaged in any pose that requires balance.
The internal and external oblique abdominis muscles are more commonly known as the side muscles, and—as their name suggests—they run at a diagonal along the flank of the body, attaching to the midline beneath the RA. These are key players in the practice of yoga, as they’re essential for stabilizing the torso in lateral standing poses. One side engages as the other releases in every twisting pose.
The most external of the core muscles, the rectus abdominis, or RA, runs vertically from the middle of the rib cage in the front of the body to the pubic bone.
A general term, “adductors” is shorthand for a group of muscles that attach the thighbone to the pelvis. When these muscles contract, they bring the thighbone toward the midline of the body assisting in internal rotation (a.k.a., inner spiral).
The goal of this physical practice is to be able to move from a place of strength and stability. Work on this series of postures with the alignment cues provided. Practice this sequence three times a week for 2 weeks to start noticing a difference. Follow this practice with a supine twist on each side and a symmetrical supine hip opener (either Supta Badha Konasana or Supta ananda Balasana).