The core muscles are integral to our day to day lives as the core stabilizes, supports, and bridges our entire system. Any movement that you do, from walking down the street to turning to pick an object up, involves the stabilization and contraction of the core that works in harmony with other supporting muscle groups.
Core exercises train the muscles in your pelvis, lower back, hips and abdomen to work in coordination to prevent common injuries such as lower back pain and poor posture. I can’t stress enough the importance of strengthening the core, which is why I’ll always sequence 3-5 minutes of core in most of my sequences. A stronger core will lead to better balance and stability (especially those aiming to nail their arm balances + handstands ) on the mat or in daily activities.
Make a daily practice by simply integrating these four power core exercises into your next practice to strengthen and stabilize your core.
1. Power Surya Namaskara for the Lower Core
I love to change the Surya flow up in my power Vinyasa classes by incorporating a towel beneath the feet to challenge the stabilizer muscles in the core. This variation will strengthen ones ability to pull up from the lower abdominals which is necessary to eventually straddle or pike up into any arm stand, or for Ashtanga practitioners that are wanting to polish up their jump throughs.
Instruction: Ask your students to fold their mat in half. Begin by placing the towel underneath the feet while standing in preparation for Surya Namaskar A. Everything remains the same in Surya Namaskar, only this time rather than jumping into Chaturanga, you will ask your students to lift their heels + hips up to come up on to the toes to draw them back into a Plank and Chaturanga. Complete Upward Facing Dog and Downward Facing Dog. On the return back to Uttanasana, once again ask students to lift hips up and engage through their lower abdominals to draw toes back to the top into the initial starting position. Complete this flow 5-7 times to build strength right at the start of class.
1. When in Uttanasana, shift weight into the wrist to lift the hips up. This creates space to draw toes back into Plank position.
2. Draw the awareness into the lower abdominals as you pike back up into Uttanasana from Downward Facing Dog.
3. Use your breath to guide you as you would in Surya Namaskar
The below exercise will be your modification.
2. Plank Pikes
You can integrate Plank Pikes as a modified variation to the Power Surya, as listed above. Start with this variation to introduce alignment and proper cues before you introduce the Power Surya. This way your students can first explore the action of shifting the weight forward in order to lift the hips up to pike forward. When students are in Plank position, it’s important to tell them to shift the weight more into the wrist to redistribute the weight forward. By doing so, the lower limbs will bear less weight to slide them back up into Uttanasana. Elbows remain extended. Knee’s remain extended. The focus is the hips and engagement of the core.
1. In Plank position, shift the weight forward to the wrist. Lift hips up. And, pull up through the lower abdominals.
2. Knee’s and elbows remain extended.
3. Exhalations lower you down into Plank Pose. Inhalation will pike you back up into Uttanasana.
3. Knee Hover
This exercise is the most effective for those trying to improve their Crow pose, or one legged Crow pose. This is ALL lower abdominals. And, this exercise is definitely going to work you up a sweat. Start in Downward Facing Dog position and ask students to lift one leg up into One Legged Down Dog. In One Legged Down Dog, shift forward into Plank pose and draw the knee right into the back of the armpit/tricep area. Tell students to connect the knee to the back of the arm. They should touch! In order to do so, the weight must be shifted more to the front of the wrist. Keep the weight shifted forward and have students draw the knee down to the wrist (allthewhile, the knee continues to stay touching the arm) and then back up to the armpit by drawing the hips up. To draw the hips back up, students must press hands through the mat to lift up through the lower abdominals and hips. This will train your students in the ability to press through the hands and lift from the lower abdominals/pelvic region.
1. Shift weight into Plank pose and draw knee to the back of the tricep. Hips should be higher than shoulder here.
2. Shift weight more to the wrist. Keep knee connected to the arm at all times.
3. Draw knee down to wrist on inhalation. Press through the mat and draw knee back up to armpit on exhalation.
4. Repeat 3-6 times.
4. Leg Raises
Leg raises are a great exercise to add into any beginner flow or practice. You can use a block between the inner feet or a pilates ball if available. Extend arms behind you and interlace your thumbs to lengthen and flatten out the back of the spine. Tuck tailbone in to ensure lower back stays firmed into the mat. LOWER BACK should not arch up as you lower legs down** Inhalations will lower legs down. Start with lowering legs down by 45 degrees. Exhalation will bring legs back up to 90 degrees. Cue students not to rock the body too much on the way back to initial starting position. Progress by increasing the degree as students warm up, ensuring that they continue to stretch arms straight to stretch the body at all times. Knees should always remain extended.
1. Extend arms and lock thumbs to straight and flatten spine.
2. Tuck tailbone under to flatten lower lumbar spine into the mat.
3. Stretch knees and squeeze the block between the feet.
4. Inhalations will lower legs down. Your exhalations will raise legs back up to 90 degrees, starting position.
5. Repeat 10-20 times. Add intensity by increasing the pace.
LETS BE FRIENDS