Where I get my (core) power

IMG_35241When you think of the holidays, what comes to mind?  Cookies?  Booze?  Overcrowded airports?  Last minute shopping?  Sounds pretty stressful to me!  Focusing on yoga poses that strengthen your core can give you the power you need to get through any holiday chaos.  Chiseled abs may be what you aspire to, but in my opinion, possessing a truly strong core is much better (and may have the fortunate side effect of an attractive midsection).  Physically speaking, your core is more than just your abs.  It refers to the entire middle of your torso- front, sides, and back.  Keeping this area of your body as strong as possible will allow you to move through not just yoga postures, but also life, with effortless ease and incredible strength.  Your core is what holds you upright and keeps everything together and can therefore be a great source of power.  Core strength (or core power) can be easily achieved through these ‘easy’ (depends on who you ask) tips-

  • Posture. There is really something to be said about standing up tall.  When done properly, you can actually work on your core strength!  Just feel yourself lengthening your spine, reaching the top of your head up towards the sky, point your tailbone down, roll your shoulders back, and engage your belly.  Reminding yourself throughout the day to stand tall and simply engaging those core muscles will help to develop them.
  • Two limbed all-fours (see image above).  Starting from hands and knees, extended out opposite leg and arm to parallel with the floor.  The important thing here (besides balance) is to pull your belly in like your trying to flatten your lower back.  This will ensure that you’re really strengthening your core in this pose by using both your abs and lower back.
  • The infamous plank pose.  Yes, it looks like you’re about to drop into your best set of push-ups, but this is about the core.  Focus again on your posture by elongating your spine, pointing your tailbone towards your heals, and squeeze your belly.  Hold this pose and breath.  If your wrists bother you, drop to your forearms with your elbows under your shoulders.  When you’re ready for more challenge, advance to side plank by rolling onto the outer edge of your right foot, stacking your legs and lifting your left arm to the sky (then switch sides).
  • Boat pose.  Start in a seated position then lean back and bring your shins parallel to the floor, legs together.  As you lean your upper body back into boat pose, sit tall, drop your shoulders and lift your chest (the longer and taller you keep your spine, the more you’ll engage your lower back).  Your hands can start holding behind your knees and then advance to extending your arms long, also parallel to the floor.  If you’re up for even more of a challenge, work on lengthening your legs and extending your arms overhead.
  • Twists.  All twists do a great job of squeezing and releasing the core muscles but there is one twist in particular to practice for ultimate core power.  Lay on your back with your legs bent in towards your chest.  Extend your arms out to your sides at shoulder height, then roll your legs to the right and hover them of the ground.  Turn your head to the left (away from your legs) and breath in your twist.  As you hover your legs you will strengthen the muscles along the sides of your torso (then switch sides).

When practicing these poses remember to alternate sides, keep breathing, and work with where you’re at.  Start with just a few breaths in each pose, then challenge yourself to hold the pose as long as your can.  Know that full body shaking when building up your core is totally normal (in plank and boat) and as crazy as it may look, we’ve all been there at some point.  Come join me on the other side of the shaking, where there is only strength, power, and a solid foundation for everything else.

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