This core and lower back yoga sequence is inspired by Week 1 of my 6-Week Yoga for Strength & Conditioning Course. This week’s practice is designed to strengthen and condition the abdominals, muscles of the lower back, glutes and hipflexors.
When we talk about ‘the core’ in yoga, in reality we’re talking about a lot more than just the muscles that make up the abdominals. From a therapeutic perspective when I work on a client’s core I also address the strength and condition of their back muscles, hip-flexors, glutes, pelvic floor and adductors. Essentially all the muscles that help to keep the hips, pelvis, and lower back stable and supported as we move our arms and legs about in everyday movements.
For a printable version of the sequence click here
There are a few key components that help with developing and maintaining core stability. I will be discussing each of these points in more detail in later blog posts but for now:
1) Breathe using your diaphragm
When you breathe in feel your lower, floating ribs expand outwards front-to-back and side-to-side. When you breathe out, feel the lower, floating ribs hug in towards the center of your body front-to-back and side-to-side.
2) Strengthen the Transverse Abdominis and Pelvic Floor
To access the Transverse Abdominis which is the deepest layer of the abdominal core (and a key muscle in lower back stability and health particularly post-injury) each time you exhale, imagine you’re drawing the two frontal hip bones towards the belly button. This should have the action of drawing the naval gently back towards the spine and firming the lower belly.
To access the pelvic floor envisage a diamond-shaped muscle that lies right at the base of the pelvic bowel spanning from the pubic bone at the front, to the tailbone at the back and from the two sit-bones left-to-right. As you exhale, imagine you’re drawing these four points towards each other. This will have the action of drawing the pelvic floor muscles slightly in and up towards the abdominal cavity.
3) Correct forward head positioning
It’s easiest to develop core stability and control when we have good postural habits. Many of us have the tendency to sit and stand with our heads to far forwards which can disrupt our spine and hip positioning. To correct this, stand against a wall with your heels about 1″ away from the wall and your buttocks and back against the wall. Draw your shoulder blades and the back of your head to rest against the wall so that your ears stack over your shoulders. Notice what it feels like to be situated on this plumb-line with the crown of the head directly over the heels.
4) Develop contralateral, cross mid-line movement (e.g. crawling, or in this sequence Balancing Table Pose and Locust Pose Variation One Leg and Arm)
Movements and poses that exercise muscles on opposite sides of the body from one another are a very effective to develop core stability as well as enhance balance and proprioception. These movements often mimic the more realistic day-to-day movements we make throughout our day making them ideal functional exercises to incorporate into a yoga practice.
A couple of practice pointers for the sequence below:
– This sequence is designed for students who are injury-free and who are not pregnant. If you have lower back pain or injury some of the movements in this sequence may not be suitable.
– Make sure that you breathe deeply and evenly throughout the sequence. Come out of the pose if you feel any pain or if you find that you are holding your breath.
– The poses can be practiced with a combination of fluid movements and longer holds. For a stronger sequence stronger hold the more challenging poses for up to 5 breaths before transitioning to the next pose. You can also repeat more challenging movements or poses a number of times through for more intensity.
– There are several progressive options in this practice – start with the easiest version of the pose first and progress to the version that leaves you comfortably challenged whilst maintaining smooth, even breathing. For example start with knees down in your plank position until you feel strong and stable enough to explore lifting the knees for full plank.
– For best results, practice this sequence 2-3 times a week and remember building strength takes time, so be patient and above all enjoy the journey of exploring your body one yoga practice at a time.
Hope you enjoy and feel free to leave feedback/comments below. Stay tuned for next week’s sequence where we focus on glute and hip strength. 😀
Thanks to Tummee for the amazing sequencing software!