Yoga and meditation are about something different for everyone who practices. It is becoming widely understood that Yoga and meditation are wonderful tools for alleviating stress, anxiety and even sleeplessness. It is also no secret that it can also be used for sculpting a toned physique. Asana, or the Yoga poses that we commonly think of in the Western world help people develop greater strength, flexibility, balance and overall better body awareness. Keep in mind that the foundation of an effective Yoga or Meditation program is the breath. One key to developing a great core through your practice is by matching your breath with your movement in a Vinyasa style. Here is a quick sequence with some of the best poses for developing a functionally strong core.
Start by sitting in Easy Pose and taking three long, slow, deep breaths and feel you breath drop down to the base of your abdomen. Each time you exhale try to make it last longer than the time before, controlling and suspending your breath. It can be helpful to place your hand on your abdomen as you breathe for greater awareness.
– Cat/Cow X 5 – In a table position alternate between inhaling and drawing your spine up like a Halloween cat and then curving the spine down like a bovine while exhaling.
– Sunbird X 10 – in combination with Tiger Stretches – In your table pose with a neutral spine, extend forward with your right arm and extend back with your left leg. Send energy forward through your fingertips and back through your toes, lengthening through your spine. Contract and draw your knee and your elbow toward your midline before extending them out long again. Do this ten times in a row on one side and then switch to your opposite arm and leg. Each time inhale as you extend out and exhale as you contract.
Do three Sun Salutations, each time being conscious of drawing your navel to your spine and drawing your heart towards the tops of your legs. Inhale when you come up and exhale as you fold forward.
Chair / Utkatasana x 2:
– Chair with a twist – Come into chair, draw your navel to your spine and your palms together. Twist bringing your left elbow towards your right knee and keeping your hands together in prayer. Hold the pose for five breath cycles. Repeat on the other side and then do the same series again performing the pose on each side twice.
A Balance Pose X 2:
Balance poses will strengthen your core like none other, truly providing you with functional strength. Two of the most core intensive balance poses are Warrior III or Virabhdrasana III and Half Moon or Ardha Chandrasana. Choose your own adventure here or do both poses. It is impossible to perform either of these poses successfully without engaging your abdominal muscles. Perform your balance pose twice on each side and notice if it improves the second time. Remember to continue breathing even while you are balancing.
Boat/Navasana & Paripurna Navasana X 5:
Lay on your abdomen with your forehead on the floor, draw your navel toward your spine and reach through your finger tips in front of you and your toes behind you in a Superman looking pose. Lift and lower your torso and legs, inhaling as you lift and exhaling as you lower. Do this five times.
Seated Boat – Sit on the floor with your knees bent and extend up through your feet, lift through your ribs and the crown of your head bringing your body into a V while continuing to bring your belly button toward your spine. Your arms reach out in front of you and you gaze forward at your fingertips. Inhale on your way up and exhale on the way down. Repeat this action five times.
Knee Down Twist / Jathara Parivartanasana X 4:
Recline on your back and draw your knees into your chest. Extend your arms out to the sides, like a T. Gently guide your legs toward the ground on the right side, turn your head and gaze out over the left hand. Engaging your abdominals, draw your knees back to center. Perform the pose on the opposite side. Repeat the pose four times on each side, inhaling as you bring your legs back toward your center and exhaling as you release them to the side. Stay in each twist for a duration of two breath cycles.
Corpse Pose / Savasana:
Always end your practice with a well deserved Savasana. Allow your whole body to relax as you imagine melting into the mat and then returning to your breath. Allow your belly to rise and fall with each breath. Let any other sounds just wash over you as you listen to the sound of your breath. Set a gentle timer for Savasana or stay there as long as you need.
There are many different Yoga poses can be used to develop a strong core. Remember to breathe and move with your breath and you will build beautiful functional core strength.