Welcome to week one of our series on yoga, kicking it off with the all-important core.
When it comes to the core, in yoga, it's much more than the appearance of rock-solid abs. The core of our body is just that - our center. In yoga, we are encouraged to move from our core, a place of strength and stability and centeredness, where our self empowerment resides on more than simply a physical level. All those yogis in seemingly impossible postures with only their hands on the ground - maybe even just one hand - they have one thing in common: A powerful core that they are deeply connected to.
If the spiritual and emotional implications of a strong core don't exactly speak to you, it's likely the physical ones might. When we have a weak core we are more susceptible to injury and our spine is compromised... hence, bad posture. And who doesn't love a tight, toned tummy?!
Begin your core practice by drawing your attention to your belly as you breathe. With every exhale draw your navel in towards your spine. When you've exhaled all your air out - during that space between your inhale and exhale - draw your belly in even further. Then release your belly, and take your inhale. This is something you can do anywhere - even at your desk!
Incorporate this flow of four simple yoga postures into your life, and soon you will see the effects of a powerful core radiating everywhere. The difference between these and other abdominal exercises is that they take you into the deeper muscles of the core, as opposed to simply the surface-level muscles, that is if you do them with this intention.
1. Begin in Plank, or the top of a push up. With hands directly under your shoulders and fingers widely spread, body parallel to the floor, let your heels activley reach back, your thighs rotate in towards one another. Keep your belly in tight, making sure that your booty isn't collapsing or sticking up in the air. Stay here for at least three breaths.
2. From Plank, roll onto the outside of your right foot for Side Plank. Stack your legs, ankle-to-ankle on top of one another, feet flexed, and reach your left arm up towards the sky. Think of stacking all your joints: shoulders, wrists, hips, knees, ankles. Draw up through your hips, as though you could create a rainbow with your body. Stay for at least three breaths, then return to plank for a breath and take it to the other side. Make sure you move slowly with intention, from your core.
3. From Plank, drop into Forearm Plank, simply placing your forearms on the earth, palms pressing in towards one another. Let the alignment of the rest of your body stay exactly as in Plank, fully engaged. Keep pressing your hands together and hug your inner legs toward the midline. Hold for at least 3 full breaths.
4. From Forearm Plank start to walk your feet in towards your hands into Dolphin Pose, keeping your elbows directly under your shoulders, hips reaching toward the sky. Relax your head. Hollow out through your abdominal area and lift through your perineum. Stay for at least five breaths.
And then, rest!
image: Lululemon Athletica