Core workouts go beyond vanity and core strength should not be confused with building rippling six-pack abs. In reality, a toned mid-section is an indicator of good health. Core can be defined as the wide band of mid-section that starts from your navel and engulfs your back, extending from your lower ribs and ending just below your buttocks. With a strong core, you can improve your posture, alleviate back pain and live a better quality of life, because literally, no arm or leg movement can happen without a strong, stable core.
When done correctly, the exercises explained in this article can collectively condition the entire core, from the pelvic floor to the diaphragm.
1. Utthitha Chaturanga Dandasana (Plank Pose)
Lie down on your abdomen. Place your palms on the floor, directly under your shoulders.
Curl your toes in and lift your entire body up till it is in a plank position. There's a tendency in this pose for the lower back to sway towards the floor and the tailbone to poke up towards the ceiling. Throughout your hold in this position, keep the tailbone firmly in place and the legs active and turned slightly inwards. Draw the pubis toward the navel.
Keep your spine lengthened and heels pressed down on the back. Note that there should be enough space between your shoulder blades. Don't let your elbows splay out to the sides; hold them in by the sides of the torso and push them back toward the heels. Press the bases of the index finger firmly to the floor. Lift the top of the sternum and your head to look forward.
You can also practice this pose individually for anywhere from 10 to 30 seconds. Exhale as you release.
2. Navasana (Boat Pose)
Sit on the floor with your legs straight in front of you. Press your hands on the floor a little behind your hips, fingers pointing towards the feet, and arms absolutely straightened. As you do this, make sure your back doesn't curve.
Exhale and bend your knees. Lift your feet off the floor so that the thighs are approximately at a 45-degree angle to the floor. If possible, slowly straighten your knees, raising the tips of your toes slightly above the level of your eyes. If this isn't possible, stay with your knees bent, perhaps lifting the shins parallel to the floor.
Stretch your arms alongside the legs, parallel to each other and the floor. Spread the shoulder blades across your back and reach strongly out through the fingers. If this isn't possible, keep the hands on the floor beside your hips or hold on to the back of your thighs.
Stay in the pose for 10-20 seconds in the beginning. Gradually increase the time of your stay to 1 minute. Exhale and release the legs and then inhale while sitting upright.
3. Gatyatmak Meru Vakrasana (Seated Dynamic Twisting)
Sit on the floor with both legs outstretched. Separate them as far as possible. Do not allow the knees to bend.
Stretch the arms sideways at shoulder level.
Keep the arms straight and twist to the left. Bring the right arm down, towards the left big toe. Stretch the straight left arm behind the back as the trunk twists to the left. Keep both arms in a straight line. Turn the head to the left and gaze at the left outstretched hand.
Repeat the same on the other side. This completes one round. Try and do 10 such rounds.
Exhale while twisting and inhale while returning.
4. Utkatasana (Chair Pose)
Stand with your feet together. Inhale and raise your arms perpendicular to the floor. Either keep the arms parallel, palms facing inward, or join the palms.
Exhale and bend your knees, trying to position the thighs as parallel to the floor as possible. The knees will project out over the feet, and the torso will lean slightly forward over the thighs. Your front torso will approximately be at a right angle to the top of your thighs. Keep the inner thighs parallel to each other and press the heads of the thigh bones down towards the heels.
Firm your shoulder blades against the back. Take your tailbone down towards the floor and in towards your pubis and keep the lower back long and stretched.
Hold this pose for anywhere between 30 seconds and a minute. To come out of this pose, straighten your knees with an inhalation, lifting strongly through the arms. Exhale and release your arms to your sides.
About The Author
Neha Bajaj is a yoga expert at www.hithyoga.com