One of my favorite quotes from a revered teacher was this – “I don’t teach core work in my classes. If you’re doing it right, the whole practice is core!”
While I 100% agree with this sentiment, sometimes we all need guidance as to how to find that strong core. We may not activate these muscles or even know where they are until we put in some serious core exercises.
Try this quick exercise to find your core:
Start by standing in Tadasana. Your feet can be either hips width distance or big toes together, whatever feels most comfortable for you. Press your heels and big toe mounds into the earth while your toes remain light. Pull energy up through the midline of your legs, as if you were zipping your legs together and up. Lengthen your tailbone down and grow your spine up, all the way to the crown of your head. Relax your shoulders down your back, away from your ears, and draw your shoulder blades toward each other. Sweep your arms high, then dive all the way forward. Lift up halfway – keep the spine long and shoulders back. Stay in this half lifted forward fold stance. Once all this is set, take a deep inhale and pull your navel in and up toward your spine, keeping the ribs drawn in tightly toward each other and your hip points tracked forward and down. Hold the breath and remain for 10-15 seconds, then release.
This action is known in Yoga as “uddiyana bandha” or the abdominal lock. This is an action you can aspire to feel in every pose, and is the key to accessing your core during your practice. Uddiyana Bandha can be one of the most transformative aspects of your yoga practice, especially as you get more advanced. It moves the energy upwards with much more force and allows you to invert and jump more easily, as well as float forward and back more lightly, and twist more deeply. Because the abdominal wall is pressing the organs and tissues of the abdominal cavity backwards, Uddiyana Bandha creates a soft massage for the deeper internal muscles of the lower back.
As far as “normal” life goes, Uddiyana Bandha is an amazing remedy for abdominal and stomach ailments, from constipation to indigestion. It stimulates digestive juices, which can increase your metabolism and tone your abdominal organs. It also balances the adrenal system – relieving stress, lethargy and tension. And most incredibly, it is the sure fire way to get flat washboard abs without ever doing any crunches (a la my teacher’s advice).
The core supports every other pose in your practice, and a strong core helps prevent back injuries. Work on your core and you will feel stronger overall! Many exciting things coming up for me in regards to core exercising.
A great core exercise to try at home:
Boat Pose (Navasana)