To me, yoga isn’t about looking a certain way, getting a better body or being a pose master. Yoga is about reconnecting with your mind, body and soul–and if physical changes accompany that, it’s a bonus. One of those sweet extras is a stronger core. I teach power yoga and practice it religiously. While all yoga practices increase your overall strength, I find power yoga to be especially effective at targeting your middle.
Besides some light ab exercises done during the practice, most of your core-strength building comes from holding poses. Doing isometric exercises is one of the best ways to strengthen your abdominals. Isometrics are static exercises or a type of strength training that isolates muscles without movement. Basically, the muscle length and joint angle do not change during contraction. An example of an isometric exercise in power yoga is holding plank for 5 or 10 breaths, while you engage your triceps, core and quads. Conversely, concentric and eccentric exercises involve dynamic movements with a range of motion. Sun Salutations would fall under the dynamic movement category. Power yoga uses isometrics in many postures, especially those that target your core and back. Your flexibility and balance comes from your core, so it’s crucial to condition this part of the body in yoga. To add in a little more try out a hot power yoga class for extra warmth, which helps relax your muscles while releasing toxins from your body.
Sometimes I like to start off my practice with some ab exercises, if my body isn’t already warmed up. Otherwise I’ll teach abs after the igniting, or back bends series. My favourite is to do 100 bicycle crunches or hold Navasana (Boat Pose) for several counts a few times. I’ll also make sure I do some abdominal work if I get the urge to do an inversion like a handstand or headstand. The core is a crucial part of keeping you up in the air, so it’s important to warm it up before you go there. However, the best time to work on your core in yoga is ALL THE TIME! Work on hugging in your lower belly and sucking in your core whether you’re standing in Mountain Pose, lowering down to Chatarunga or lifting up into Wheel. Put your focus on your core, send your breath there and that’s where you’ll build strength and flexibility. Forget the six-pack and go for core strength, full-body flexibility, mental power and spiritual health. That’s a combo yoga has to offer!
Eryl McCaffrey is a Power Vinyasa Yoga Teacher from Toronto, Ontario. She’s also a Freelance Writer, who’s passionate about health and wellness. Eryl believes in the power of love to heal and advance the world. Visit her Blog at: twofeetheartbeat.wordpress.com