Thursday, 10 February 2011 04:52

It's All About the Middle

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You’ve learned how to breathe fully, open your hips, strengthen your shoulders, and now: tone that tummy.  And no, not because flat abs are hot and Dinah is coming up; but because a strong core also improves back and spine strength: helping to prevent lower back pain and injuries, as well as our posture.

 

The first pose we are going to cover is called Dolphin Plank Pose.  This pose helps to strengthen your core, upper back, arms, and legs.  It can help prevent osteoporosis. Calms the brain and helps to relieve stress and mild depression.  It also stretches the shoulders, calves, hamstrings, and arches.

How to:

1. Start on all fours. Then, place your forearms down on the ground.

2. Walk your feet back, coming onto your tiptoes, until your legs are straight and lifted off the ground.

3. Make sure your shoulders are over your elbows; your torso is parallel to the floor.

4. With all of your body off the ground except your forearms, shoot the heels of your feet back behind you-as if you were pushing a wall away with your heels.

5. Keep your gaze down, with the crown of your head facing the front of the room. Eyes looking a few inches in front of your fingers.

6. Squeeze your glutes. And pull your belly button back to your spine. Making sure to breathe, even though you are holding in your belly.

Stay in this position for 30 seconds to a minute, using your ujjayi breath to remain calm.

You may notice that your belly will want to fall towards the ground, your body may begin to shake; or your hips will start to hammock down. Keep your hips lifted and breathe through the shaking: it’s good! And if you don’t shake, that’s okay too.  Everyone’s body is different.


Another pose that I happen to find very challenging and very beneficial is called Boat Pose. The most important thing to remember in this pose, besides breathing, is to be patient with yourself.  You can easily make progress with practice. Boat pose improves digestion, stimulates the kidneys, intestines, thyroid and prostate glands. Strengthens hip flexors, spine, and abdomen.  And, surprise: it relieves stress!

How to:

1. Sit on your bottom, and bend your knees, with your feet flat on the ground.

2. Press your hands on the floor a little behind your hips, with your fingers pointing towards your feet.

3. Keep your back straight and pull your belly button back to your spine.

4. Slowly lift your feet off the floor, and then begin to straighten your legs.

5. Taking your arms off the ground, stretch them out alongside your legs, parallel to the floor. Move your shoulder blades down your back. Your body will look like an upsidedown A.

**If you cannot straighten your legs, that is okay.  Just lift your feet off the floor, and keep your knees bent with your shins parallel to the floor.

*If having your hands out in front of you makes it difficult for you to stay up with your back straight, you can hold onto the backs of your thighs-gently.  Or keep your hands on the floor beside your hips.

Stay in the pose for 10-20 seconds.

Extra: You can lower your legs and back slightly so you’re lifted a few inches off the ground on an exhale, and bring them all back up into full boat on your inhale for a number of reps.  I shall dub that a "Crunching Boat:” and usually comes with more practice and stability in full boat pose.

 

Modified Version:

 

Now that we’ve rocked your core like a hurricane, the final core pose we are going to discover will be one you should do after these poses, or any core workout. It’s called Cobra Pose. Insert sexy snake hiss here.

Cobra opens the heart and lungs, stimulates the organs in our abs, firms our delicious tushies, strengthens the spine, stretches chest and lungs, shoulders, as well as our, now, rock hard abs.  This pose can be therapeutic for asthma, as well as relieve stress and fatigue.

Keep in mind before getting into cobra that you do not want to overdo the backbend.  If anything, start low to the ground before you come all the way up.

How to:

1. Lay down on the floor, on your stomach. Legs behind you, tops of feet on the floor.

2. Place your hands underneath your shoulders, and squeeze your elbows back towards one another-so they are not flailing out.

3. Press all of your toes and the tops of your feet onto the floor; this will slightly lift your thighs.

4. On an inhale, roll your shoulders back and begin to straighten your arms, lifting your chest off the floor.

*And again, only go to the height that feels good to you, without jamming your back. And keep your hips on the ground.

You can either look straight ahead, or if it’s comfortable and doesn’t hurt your neck: you can let your head fall back towards your tailbone.

Hold the pose for 15-30 seconds, releasing on an exhale down to the ground.


Following your heart, and listening to the very core of our being takes great patience and immeasurable courage.  I may not be able to teach you how to do that, but these three poses will certainly allow you to walk tall-without a big stick.  And that, my friends, could evoke all that courage and patience we need to not waver on our paths to following our dreams: however silly some people may say they are! Next time, I’ll be showing you some bootylicious yoga poses: because as much attention as you’re going to attract with your amazing posture, strong core, open hips and shoulders: as you walk on past, we are going to let that sweet hiney of yours leave a firm, lasting, impression, too!

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