Over the next few weeks we will be showcasing 5 exercises for your core from different forms of exercise – yoga, TRX, Pilates, Kettlebells and more. First on our list: Yoga. Get ready to strike a pose, find a flow and work your abdominal muscles. Remember to warm-up and stretch before starting any exercise routine and consult an expert if you have questions regarding these yoga exercises for core strength. Step-by-step instructions on how to perform each pose are from Yoga Journal.
With an exhalation slowly lower your torso and legs to a few inches above and parallel to the floor. Avoid any injury by preventing swaying. Keep the tailbone firmly in place and the legs very active and turned slightly inward. Draw the pubis toward the navel.
Keep the space between the shoulder blades broad. Hold elbows in by the sides of the torso and push them back toward the heels. Press the bases of the index fingers firmly to the floor. Lift the top of the sternum and your head to look forward.
Stand in Mountain Pose, exhale and fold foward to Uttanasana. From Uttanasana, exhale and step your left foot back into a high lunge position. Your right knee should be more or less at a right angle. Lay the midline of your torso (from the pubis to the sternum) down on the midline of the right thigh (from the knee to the hip crease) and bring your hands to your right knee, right hand to the outer knee, left hand to the inner. Squeeze the knee with your hands, lift your torso slightly, and with an exhalation, turn it slightly to the right.
Now from the lunge position, stretch your arms forward, parallel to the floor and parallel to each other, palms facing each other. Exhale and press the head of the right thighbone back and press the heel actively into the floor. Synchronize the straightening of the front leg and the lifting of the back leg. As you lift the back leg, resist by pressing the tailbone into the pelvis.
Normally students come up into Virabhadrasana III by lunging the torso forward. This tends to shift the body weight onto the ball of the front foot and unbalance the position. Don’t allow the torso to swing forward as you move into position; instead, as you straighten the front knee, think of pressing the head of the thighbone back. This centers the femur in the hip joint, grounds the heel into the floor, and stabilizes the position.
The arms, torso, and raised leg should be positioned relatively parallel to the floor. For many students the pelvis tends to tilt. Release the hip [of the raised leg] toward the floor until the two hip points are even and parallel to the floor. Energize the back leg and extend it strongly toward the wall behind you; reach just as actively in the opposite direction with the arms. Bring the head up slightly and look forward, but be sure not to compress the back of your neck.
Stay in this position for 30 seconds to a minute. Release back to the lunge on an exhalation. Bring your hands to the floor on either side of the right foot, and on an exhalation, step your left foot forward to meet your right. Stay in this forward bend for a few breaths, then repeat for the same length of time on the other side.
Sit on the floor with your legs straight in front of you. Press your hands on the floor a little behind your hips, fingers pointing toward the feet, and strengthen the arms. Lift through the top of the sternum and lean back slightly. As you do this make sure your back doesn’t round; continue to lengthen the front of your torso between the pubis and top sternum. Sit on the “tripod” of your two sitting bones and tailbone.
Exhale and bend your knees, then lift your feet off the floor, so that the thighs are angled about 45-50 degrees relative to the floor. Lengthen your tailbone into the floor and lift your pubis toward your navel. If possible, slowly straighten your knees, raising the tips of your toes slightly above the level of your eyes. If this isn’t possible remain with your knees bent, perhaps lifting the shins parallel to the floor.
Stretch your arms alongside the legs, parallel to each other and the floor. Spread the shoulder blades across your back and reach strongly out through the fingers. If this isn’t possible, keep the hands on the floor beside your hips or hold on to the backs of your thighs.
While the lower belly should be firm, it shouldn’t get hard and thick. Try to keep the lower belly relatively flat. Press the heads of the thigh bones toward the floor to help anchor the pose and lift the top sternum. Breathe easily. Tip the chin slightly toward the sternum so the base of the skull lifts lightly away from the back of the neck.
At first stay in the pose for 10-20 seconds. Gradually increase the time of your stay to 1 minute. Release the legs with an exhalation and sit upright on an inhalation.
Fold two or more firm blankets into rectangles measuring about 1 foot by 2 feet, and stack them one on top of the other. You can place a sticky mat over the blankets to help the upper arms stay in place while in the pose. Then lie on the blankets with your shoulders supported (and parallel to one of the longer edges) and your head on the floor. Lay your arms on the floor alongside your torso, then bend your knees and set your feet against the floor with the heels close to the sitting bones. Exhale, press your arms against the floor, and push your feet away from the floor, drawing your thighs into the front torso.
Continue to lift by curling the pelvis and then the back torso away from the floor, so that your knees come toward your face. Stretch your arms out parallel to the edge of the blanket and turn them outward so the fingers press against the floor (and the thumbs point behind you). Bend your elbows and draw them toward each other. Lay the backs of your upper arms on the blanket and spread your palms against the back of your torso. Raise your pelvis over the shoulders, so that the torso is relatively perpendicular to the floor. Walk your hands up your back (toward the floor) without letting the elbows slide too much wider than shoulder width.
Inhale and lift your bent knees toward the ceiling, bringing your thighs in line with your torso and hanging the heels down by your buttocks. Press your tailbone toward your pubis and turn the upper thighs inward slightly. Finally inhale and straighten the knees, pressing the heels up toward the ceiling. When the backs of the legs are fully lengthened, lift through the balls of the big toes so the inner legs are slightly longer than the outer.
Soften the throat and tongue. Firm the shoulder blades against the back, and move the sternum toward the chin. Your forehead should be relatively parallel to the floor, your chin perpendicular. Press the backs of your upper arms and the tops of your shoulders actively into the blanket support, and try to lift the upper spine away from the floor. Gaze softly at your chest.
As a beginning practitioner stay in the pose for about 30 seconds. Gradually add 5 to 10 seconds to your stay every day or so until you can comfortably hold the pose for 3 minutes. Then continue for 3 minutes each day for a week or two, until you feel relatively comfortable in the pose. Again gradually and 5 to 10 seconds onto your stay every day or so until you can comfortably hold the pose for 5 minutes. To come down, exhale, bend your knees into your torso again, and roll your back torso slowly and carefully onto the floor, keeping the back of your head on the floor.
Squat down from Tadasana with your inner feet a few inches apart. If it isn’t possible to keep your heels on the floor, support them on a thickly folded blanket. Separate your knees wider than your hips and lean the torso forward, between the inner thighs. Stretch your arms forward, then bend your elbows, place your hands on the floor and the backs of the upper arms against the shins.
Snuggle your inner thighs against the sides of your torso, and your shins into your armpits, and slide the upper arms down as low onto the shins as possible. Lift up onto the balls of your feet and lean forward even more, taking the weight of your torso onto the backs of the upper arms. In Bakasana you consciously attempt to contract your front torso and round your back completely. To help yourself do this, keep your tailbone as close to your heels as possible.
With an exhalation, lean forward even more onto the backs of your upper arms, to the point where the balls of your feet leave the floor. Now your torso and legs are balanced on the backs of your upper arms. As a beginner at this pose, you might want to stop here, perched securely on the bent arms.
But if you are ready to go further, squeeze the legs against the arms, press the inner hands firmly to the floor and (with an inhalation) straighten the elbows. Seen from the side the arms are angled slightly forward relative to the floor. The inner knees should be glued to the outer arms, high up near the armpits. Keep the head in a neutral position with your eyes looking at the floor, or lift the head slightly, without compressing the back of the neck, and look forward.
Stay in the pose anywhere from 20 seconds to 1 minute. To release, exhale and slowly lower your feet to the floor, back into a squat.
For these poses we recommend buying a quality mat. A great mat will last for year with proper care and maintenance. Below are a few of our favorites. Of course, for extra support and wrist injury prevention in the weight-bearing poses you should consider integrating your WAGs yoga wrist support gloves!