09 Dec My Top 5 Core Yoga Poses
There are so many yoga poses that work the core to help strengthen the abdominal muscles and to protect the lower back.
When people forget to use their core muscles during poses such as Boat, Headstand and Downward Facing Dog, all of the weight shifts into the back of the body (AKA The Lumbar Spine) to take the weight of the pose and then people end up with suffering from back pain.
Not only is the core good for protecting the lower back, but it is also great for keeping you balanced. When standing in Tree Pose or Dancer, by engaging the core you will feel a lot more stabile throughout the torso and therefore will be able to hold the balance for longer.
1.Start in Downward Facing Dog – Adho Mukha Svanasana. On an inhalation, draw your whole body forward until the tops of your shoulders draw over your wrists and your torso is parallel to the floor.
2. Spread your fingers wide apart from one another, rooting down through the knuckle of your index finger and thumb. Hug your arms towards one another until your bicep muscles turn forwards and your triceps turn backwards.
3. Keep your arms straight, allowing your shoulder blades to draw towards one another across your back and your collarbones to broaden.
4. Engage your core muscles and draw your tailbone in the direction of your heels to decrease the pressure on your low back.
5. Firm your legs by pushing your heels away from you.
2. Side Plank (with optional variation) – Vasisthasana
1. Start in plank pose (as shown above). Bring the right hand to centre of your mat as you shift onto the outside edge of your right foot, and stack your left foot on top of your right foot.
2. Raise the left arm up to the ceiling. Your body should form one straight diagonal line from the crown of your head to your feet.
3. Lift the hips towards the ceiling and engage the abdominal muscles.
4. Keep your legs stacked, or bend the right leg and bring the foot onto the left leg, making a Tree Pose style shape.
5. Hold here for 15 to 30 seconds, then come back to Downward Facing Dog and repeat on the other side, holding for the same length of time on both sides.
3. Three Legged Downward Facing Dog
1. FromDownward Facing Dog, inhale as you raise the right leg to the ceiling.
2. Ensure that the right hip is at the same height as the left one, and is not lifting up with the leg.
3. Flex the foot and point the toes down to the mat.
4. Hold for five breaths and then release.
4. Boat Pose – Navasana
1. From sitting, place your feet and knees together as you bend your knees.
2. As you hold the back of your knees, thighs, or taking yogi toe lock, lengthen your spine creating space through your low back and abdomen. Lean slightly back without collapsing into the abdomen and find the back edge of your sit-bones.
3. Maintaining your gaze on a focal point, inhale and lift your feet a few inches off the ground balancing on the sit bones. Continue to breath as you discover your balance.
4. Keeping the spine tall, slowly raise the heels to the height of your knees. Keep your knees bent as you feel how this variation is for your lower back.
5. If the spine easily stays tall and the back is comfortable, slowly release your legs reaching your arms forward. Keep your chest open and broad. If the unsupported version feels strong and steady, slowly lengthen your legs diagonally up without rounding into the low back
6. To exit, take one final inhale, and then exhale lowering your feet softly to the ground. Cross your legs, take a few slow breaths and sit with stillness feeling the energy of boat.
5. Half Headstand – Ardha Sirsasana
1. Start kneeling on all fours. Place your forearms down on the ground with your elbows shoulder width distance apart. Interlace your fingers with your bottom pinky finger tucked in so you make a flat base with your hands and forearms.
2. Place the top of your head down on the mat inside of your hands so just the back of your head touches your hands. Draw your chin towards your chest slightly to remove any stress in the back of your neck. Tuck your toes under and lift your hips until you come to an upside down “V” shape with your body.
3. Walk your feet in towards your hands, until you reach a full stretch in your hamstrings. Stay in this position until your hips are fully over your shoulders.
4. Once your hips are over your shoulders, strongly engage your core muscles, bend your knees and allow your feet to leave the mat. If this is not happening easily for you, stay at Step 3 to build strength and prepare for the pose.
5. Once your toes are extended towards the ceiling, push through the balls of your feet to tone the legs. Engage your core muscles and lengthen your lower back by extending your tailbone towards your heels. Push your head and arms firmly in the mat to alleviate stress on your neck.
6. Soften the head, jaw, eyes, neck and forehead. Keep a steady breath and relax. Slowly begin to lower the feet back down to the mat but hold the legs at a 90 degree angle.
7. Hold here for 3-5 breaths. To get out of the pose, lower your toes back down to the ground and take Child’s Pose.
Try these poses and see how you get on. The longer you can hold these core strengthening poses, the more resilient your lower back will be to any injury and the stronger your abs will be, not only for yoga poses but for the movements of everyday life!