By: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed
A balanced routine of Yoga poses will strengthen all of your muscles and ligaments. Engaging in a comprehensive Yoga practice several times a week will help to keep your body limber and your skeletal system in correct alignment. There are a number of very effective ways to improve core strength by practicing asanas that specifically target the abdominal muscles. Although many Yoga poses help to increase core strength, specific asanas, such as Plank Pose and Navasana, are very effective at trimming your midsection and increasing core strength.
Without a strong core, you are more likely to sustain back injuries, particularly lower back injuries. If your core muscles are strong, this critical area of your body will help to stabilize your entire spine and keep your muscles, ligaments and joints in optimal alignment. The movements of the Sun Salutation are a gentle and effective way of increasing your core strength while warming up your entire body. Additionally, many of the Yoga poses that target the core muscles of the abdominal area can be woven into the movements of the Sun Salutation.
* Plank Pose
Plank Pose is one of the foundational asanas in Yoga. It is also one of the basic postures of the Sun Salutation A and B series. This series of Yoga postures is linked together by the breath in a flowing fashion, known as “vinyasa” in Sanskrit. When the Sun Salutations are practiced in conjunction with Ujjayi Breathing, the warming and detoxifying effects of this series of postures in magnified. Practicing 5-10 repetitions of the Sun Salutations at the beginning of your Yoga class or session will make you feel limber and energized for the duration of your practice.
If you are not familiar with the postures or sequencing of the Sun Salutations, there are a number of professional online Yoga resources available that offer instructional videos, or you may wish to receive personalized instruction from a certified Yoga instructor in your local area. To practice Plank Pose, simply begin to move through a series of Sun Salutations. Most often, the practice of Plank Pose follows directly after the Standing Forward Fold and just prior to Upward Facing Dog. It is the Yoga pose that connects these two asanas in the flowing series of asanas that comprise the Sun Salutations.
If you are interested in improving your core strength with Yoga, holding Plank Pose for an additional amount of time during your practice of the Sun Salutations is an easy way to dramatically increase your core strength without increasing the overall time of your Yoga workout for more than five minutes. To improve your core strength, try holding Plank Pose for thirty seconds or longer. In order to increase your core strength more dramatically, you may even want to “sneak in” a few push-ups during your practice of Plank Pose. Monitoring the position of your shoulders and chest during your practice of Plank Pose will also bring awareness to any alignment issues that need to be corrected.
For example, an optimally aligned Plank Pose will consist of your hands being in a straight line with your shoulders without collapsing your chest or hunching up your shoulders. If you find that your shoulders are slowly making their way up to your ears, correct this misalignment by pulling your shoulders blades in and towards each other while keeping your body as straight as a plank of wood, all the way from your feet to the top of your head. If you find that your chest is collapsing, try moving your front bottom ribs back into the core of your abdominal area.
By correcting any misalignment in Plank Pose when you are on the Yoga mat, you will be more able to align your spine and neck in an optimal way when you are not on the mat. Of course, holding your body in optimal alignment, both on and off the Yoga mat, is central to mitigating your risk of incurring an injury due to the physical stress of repetitive movements done with poor alignment. When you are aligned correctly in Plank Pose, your practice of this foundational asana will give you a feeling of strength and ease as the prana flows in an unobstructed fashion along the entire length of your body.
© Copyright – Virginia Iversen / Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division