For my third blog this summer I promised to tackle core strength. Abdominal strengthening is a necessary part of any back care programme, but incorporating it into a yoga regime can offer a different and effective approach. Strengthening abdominal muscles in isolation is not necessarily the best way to create core strength. Likewise, it is not healthy (or possible?) to hold your abdomen in all the time. Both lead to holding patterns that do not facilitate free breathing, easy movement or relaxation. This blog looks at true core strength from a whole-body perspective: demonstrating movements that engage core muscles in coordination with other muscles, the aim is to show you how to lay the foundation for a healthy back.
If you can easily do press-ups, keeping your body straight as you lower it to the ground and effortlessly raise it again … this blog is not for you. This blog is for those of us who don’t know how to even start arm strengthening. It is for those of us whose back is suffering more because our arms are not strong enough when lifting or carrying. It is aimed to help you feel more ease when doing yoga poses that require arm strength. And, since this blog is part of the summer-body series, it is for those of us who would like to have a bit more tone in the upper arms when wearing summer tops.
A few weeks ago one of my students came into the group class and declared: “I want a beach body by August.” An unusual request in a back care yoga class, so there were a few seconds of stunned silence. Then I thought “great!” A beach body presumably has shapely arms, firm gluts and a toned abdomen. Strong Gluts, arm and abdominal muscles also happen to be important for back health, so beach body and back health work together very well. My blogs this summer will focus on these three muscle groups, making them ready for the pool or beach if you want, or simply toning them to support your back health. If we also do these exercises mindfully, they can have a positive effect on stress levels, and cultivate a healthy approach to our body. We are starting with the gluts today.
It takes some ingenuity to find exercises that can strengthen core muscles when you have neck pain. The traditional abdominal crunches, where you interlace the fingers behind the head to lift the head and shoulders, are often out of the question. Not being able to do abdominal exercises can be frustrating, especially if you have lower back pain, because these muscles are instrumental in keeping the lower back healthy. This blog presents two ways of working core muscles while leaving your head relaxed on the mat. I realise that these movements are not strictly yoga. However, doing the exercises with full attention makes them more ‘yogic’ than a headstand in which the performer is distracted and trying to outdo the yogi next to him or her. It is the attention that counts.