Ask the PT: Fire Up Your Core
Fire up Your Core by Janet Carscadden PT, DPT, E-RYT
Many people come to their yoga asana practice in search of flexibility. And there is a lot of gratification that comes with working out the tension in our muscles. With such a focus on going deeper, there is a risk of over stretching and losing stability.
In our physical therapy practice we frequently work with clients to bring their body back into balance by building strength in the abs, back and shoulder girdle. Here is a quick series of poses that can be done in less than five minutes. Perform as many reps as you can of each exercise while maintaining good form and without a strain in the back or neck. Most people can just do 5 – 10 reps of each of these when they are beginning a core strengthening program. Rest in downward dog or child’s pose for 30 seconds between each exercise.
Plank with Knee Lowering
From downward dog move forward to plank on straight arms or forearms. Press the hands or forearms into the floor to spread the shoulder blades apart. You will feel your torso move away from the floor. Draw in your lower belly. Lower one knee to the floor then lift it back up to plank as you draw your belly in. You should feel the muscles in the lower belly working hard to stabilize the spine. To make this harder lower both knees at once and draw the lower belly in as you lift the knees and straighten the legs. Perform as many reps as you can until you get a burn in the lower abdominal muscles. Stop if you start to feel a strain the low back.
Plank with a Leg Lift
In plank spread the shoulder blades wide across the back and away from the shoulders. Draw in your lower belly. Inhale lift your right leg 6-8 inches from the floor without allowing your low back to sag. Exhale lower the leg. Inhale lift the left leg, exhale lower and repeat. Keep drawing the lower belly in, keep the hips level and stop if you feel a strain in the low back. The muscles around the shoulder blades should be working hard to stabilize the upper body. Keep checking in that you are preventing the shoulder blades from drifting up towards the ears.
Plank with a Hand Touch
From downward dog move forward to plank. Spread the shoulder blades wide across the back and away from the shoulders. Draw the lower belly in. Shift the weight to the left hand and foot and lift the right hand to touch the front of your opposite hip. Lower the right hand and shift the weight back onto all four limbs. Repeat by shifting the weight to the right and lifting the left hand to touch the front of the right hip. Lower the hand and repeat. Keep the hips level. Keep your breath even. Stop if you feel a strain in the back or neck.
To learn more about strategies to build up core strength check out our Yoga Alignment or Therapeutics classes taught by our physical therapists.
~ Janet Carscadden PT, DPT, E-RYT