Core Yoga: The Bandhas

In yoga, core refers to your literal and figurative core rather than your “six pack” or having a “flat tummy.” Your abdomen will be toned by these asana when you focus on moving from your deepest center. Before you begin, close your eyes and bring your focus to the center of your body by breathing deeply. While inhaling, evenly expand your chest and abdomen in every direction, releasing tension and holding wherever you feel it. As you exhale, draw everything back towards center as you bring your attention to the the center of your body. You may place your hands on your low belly, thumbs touching and just under your navel, index fingers touching and pointing down to help sense your center of gravity.

In yoga, “core” is often referred to as “the bandhas” /bahn-duhs/. You have 3 bandhas, or membranes that both separate and join areas of your body: the pelvic floor is referred to as Mula Bandha; the diaphragm engaging is referred to as Uddiyana Bandha; the vocal folds through which you speak are the site of Jalandara Bandha. The pelvic floor and diaphragm form the bottom and top of the abdominal cavity and are dome shaped. The diaphragm not only attaches at the ribs, but down the spine, and it’s lowest portions intertwine with the muscles of the pelvis. Think of this intricate connection when you are engaging the muscles of your core to support your spine and rib cage so that you generate 360 degree engagement, and don’t simply harden your belly. Your belly, as well as your sides and deep muscles should be hugging in, supporting your spine as you move from your deepest center, your core.

Things you might want to have handy: Yoga Mat, Yoga Towel or Blanket


It is recommended to perform the warm-up before starting this routine.


Step 1: Cat Pose
Duration: 5-10 times
Pose Review: Cat Pose

Follow the wave of your spine as you arch up on exhale and down on inhale, first
 contracting, then stretching your front abdominal muscles. Notice that as you
 contract your abdominal muscles, your back muscles are stretched, and visa versa.


Step 2: Downward Facing Dog

Duration: 3-5 breaths
Pose Review: Downwward Facing Dog

Lift your pelvic floor strongly as you move your hips up and back to Down dog and scoop your belly toward your back and under your rib cage, engaging both Mula and Uddiyana Bandha.


Step 3: Plank

Duration: 1-5 breaths
Pose Review: Plank Pose

Keep the bandhas strongly engaged so that your hips do not sag toward the ground, but are supported by the engagement of your total core.


Step 4: Repeat Steps 2-3
Duration: 9x
Pose Review: Downwward Facing Dog, Plank Pose

Wave the spine forward from your tailbone, lifting your belly up toward the ceiling as you draw your shoulders over your wrists and shoulder blades together on your back. Exhale back to Down Dog before repeating again.     


Step 5: Plank

Duration: 5 breaths
Pose Review: Plank Pose


Step 6: Upward Facing Dog
Duration: 1-5 breaths
Pose Review: Upward Facing Dog

Notice how engaging your pelvic floor helps to drive you forward and keep your heart open even as you lift up through your center.


Step 7: Repeat Steps 5-6

Duration: 9x
Pose Review: Plank Pose, Upward Facing Dog

From Plank, continue strongly engaging your core as you roll over your toes to the top of your feet, lengthening through your tailbone. Draw your sternum forward and feel the stretch across your belly muscles. Maintain engagement through your legs and core so that only your feet and hands are on the floor and your shoulders do not round forward.


Step 8: Child’s Pose
Duration: 3-5 breaths
Pose Review: Child's Pose

Stay in Child's Pose until your breath becomes smooth and quiet again.


Step 9: Boat Pose

Duration: 5 breaths
Pose Review: Boat Pose

Keep your belly scooped back and up, hollow like a boat, heart lifting like it’s prow.


Step 10: Reverse Plank

Duration: 5 breaths

Maintain 360 degree engagement, feeling the emphasis on the back of the body now.


Step 11: Repeat Steps 9-10
Duration: 9x
Pose Review: Boat Pose

From Boat, exhale as you reach back, lengthen your low back and press your body up from your hips as you point your toes. Keep your shoulders broad and open.


Step 12: Crow Pose
Duration: 3-5 breaths
Pose Review: Crow Pose

Engage your core 360 degrees to lift and round your torso as you balance on your hands.


Step 13: Goddess Pose

Duration: 5-20 breaths
Pose Review: Goddess Pose

Feel your abdomen expand and contract as your pelvic floor relaxes and legs release toward the floor.

    
Step 14: Bridge Pose
Duration: 5-25 Breaths
Pose Review: Bridge Pose

Stretching the front of the belly.


Step 15: Fish Pose
Duration: 5 breaths
Pose Review: Fish Pose


Perform the relaxation sequence to complete this routine.


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