As we now have the festive period behind us, with possibly too much slouching, sitting, eating and driving, let’s look ahead and start the year with some essential back care. Even if you don’t have back pain, these gentle core strengthening practices are important to keep your back healthy. They also direct the awareness to your core area and this awareness may help us stop eating more than is good for us. The practices are gentle, because we don’t need a six pack to have a toned abdomen in a mobile, aligned and strong body.
The following gentle core strengthening is meant to give you a variety of practices that engage different core muscles over a five-day period. Like my abdominal strengthening videos (https://beneyoga.co.uk/videos/), the practices gradually build up from gentle to more intense. This means you can stop at any time and repeat the easier practices before continuing.
Instructions for the gentle core strengthening practices
Repeat each practice for a comfortable number of times. Your body will tell you how many repetitions are right. However, if you know that you give up too soon, do one or two extra repetitions. If you know that you usually overdo things, try doing a few less.
After the five days, take a day or two rest and then start again with day one, possibly adding a few repetitions this time.
If you suffer from more acute back pain, stick to day one.
After each practice, make sure you rest for 5-7 breaths in the supine front of the body stretch, or keep your legs bent if the long position is painful. Ideally, give yourself another 5 minutes rest just on your back with your legs bent.
For the supine front of the body stretch, hold your elbows and bring the square shape of your arms to rest on your forehead or on the floor. Stretch your legs and breathe for 5 to 7 breaths.
Lying on the back with bent legs, put weight on the feet and lower the back of the waist on the floor. Inhale and release this gentle lengthening of the lower back. Repeat a few times. Then do the same movement 5-10x by using the abdominal muscles, without putting weight on the feet.
Still on your back, bring your knees close to the chest. Hold both knees well and gently rock from side to side.
Don’t go so far that you would fall to the side. The idea is to bring your body back to centre by using the oblique abdominals, not your arms.
The whole body rocks, as one unit, so the nose stays aligned with the knees. Repeat 4-7 x to each side.
Start with one leg bent and one leg straight on the floor.
Push down on the foot that’s on the floor.
Raise one straight leg with the inhalation to the level of the other knee.
Exhale and place it down slowly.
Repeat the same number of times with each leg.
If this gets easier, don’t place the foot down completely but hover it an inch above the floor before lifting it again.
Hold legs to the side
From the supine position, start with your legs drawn up to the chest.
Exhale and move them halfway to the side, careful to keep both shoulder blades on the mat.
Stay for a few breaths.
Exhale and move the legs back to the centre,
Repeat on the other side.
Flower vs. seed
Start in the “flower position”, with the arms and knees out to the side, soles of the feet touching.
Exhale and tuck your chin, lift the head and hug your knees close to the chest.
Don’t curl the lower back off the floor.
Inhale and return to the flower position.
Repeat a comfortable number of times and rest with the knees close to the chest.
If your neck is tight or painful, do this movement only with the limbs and leave your head on the floor.
Repeat this movement from day 1. This time use your breath as well: exhale to the side. Stay on the side (halfway) while you inhale. Exhale and rock back to the centre and over to the other side. Don’t use your arms to rock back to the centre. The oblique abdominals are doing the work.
Start on your back with the legs bent and hands interlaced behind the head.
Don’t pull on your head but rather keep looking up at the ceiling.
Keep the elbows out to the side and rest the head in your hands.
Lift the head and shoulders blades with the exhalation and lower them with the inhalation.
Repeat a comfortable number of times.
Don’t continue if your neck is painful. If your neck is habitually tight or painful, it is better to stick with the practices of day 1 to 3.
For the Oblique Abdominals
Start in the same position but raise one shoulder in the direction of the opposite knee.
Leave the other shoulder blade and upper arm down.
Again, keep the elbows pointing to the side.
Exhale to go up and inhale on the way down.
Alternate sides and as you repeat.
Abdominal crunches with legs
Start on your back with the arms extended on the floor next to your head.
Bend both legs to the chest.
Tuck your chin every time before lifting the head.
Move your arms towards the legs while lifting your head and shoulders. At the same time, stretch one leg away, along the floor.
Inhale and move back to the starting position.
Repeat and stretch the other leg away.
Alternate legs as you repeat a comfortable number of times.
For the oblique abdominals
Bend both knees towards the chest. Interlace the fingers behind the head. As in day 4, keep your neck as relaxed as possible and don’t allow your hands to pull on the head.
Exhale and move one shoulder across, using the other shoulder as a pivoting point. At the same time stretch one leg away.
Repeat to the other side and alternate for repetitions.
As after all other practices, give yourself time to stretch out and then rest at least 5 minutes, observing the sensations in the body and the breath.
If you would like more
Back care and abdominal toning can be practised in many ways. To do it safely, it is advisable to learn it with a qualified teacher who can see if you are doing it correctly. If you would like to strengthen your core or ease your back pain within the framework of yoga therapy, you can book a consultation call here: https://beneyoga.co.uk/book-a-free-consultation-call/
Alternatively, have a look at my videos here: https://beneyoga.co.uk/videos/
The videos combine gentle core strengthening with releasing back muscles, breathing and relaxation. For only £45 you receive five 20-minute practices to release and strengthen your back in a stress-free and mindful way. After the very gentle first session, which you can try for free, the subsequent 4 sessions gradually become more challenging.