I still remember the first time I heard the word “core” in a yoga class. It was long before I was a PTA or a yoga teacher. I was on a yoga retreat with a co-worker. She was an avid runner in fantastic shape. I had just started practicing yoga consistently. The yoga instructor asked what we wanted to work on. I was thinking of serenity and a mind-body connection….and of course some lovely stretches. Then my friend answered with the word “CORE” in a very serious tone. I thought to myself, “I don’t know what that core thing is, but it sounds scary and difficult.” Just as I was thinking that I was in over my head, the instructor mentioned there was another class that would suit her goals better. I breathed a sigh of relief and declined to go with her when she invited me.
Fast forward a few years and I’m a huge fan of the “C” word. Core muscles lie deep within the body and are also referred to as postural or tonic muscles. They are built for support and endurance. Stretching and strengthening core muscles help them to support the spine and other parts of the body. That’s right….I said “other parts.” Core muscles are not limited to abdominal muscles, they are also present in the hips, legs, chest and shoulders.
Even though core exercises brings about images of a million sit ups and planks, it’s important to note that to keep our core muscles in top form we should strive for flexibility and strength. Core muscles work against gravity to keep us upright during walking or sitting, and help with other functional daily activities. This means that they often get tight and shortened which can cause them to inhibit other movements. For example when one tries, but is unable, to do an abdominal crunch the cause may be weakness in abdominals OR tightness in the extensor muscles of the spine. If the spine is unable to flex because of tightness in the back it inhibits the abdominal crunch. Therefore, for healthy core muscles we should incorporate both stretching and strengthening into our repertoire. Yoga is an ideal way to do this.
Here are some yoga postures that can help some of your postural muscles (and all the others) become healthier and happier.
- Uttanasana (Standing Forward Fold)
- Balasana (Child’s Pose)
- Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana (Revolved Head to Knee Pose)
- Vasisthasana (Side Plank)
- Uttita Parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)
- Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior 1)
- Anantasana (Side Reclining Leg Lift)
- Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose)
If you’d like a personalized sequence or an individual session focused on your health goals, please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also join me for one of my classes. See my offerings on my schedule page.
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