Yoga Core - Strong from the Inside Out

What is your “core”? “Core” describes the central organizing principle of a system, the chamber for the substance that fuels it, and the deepest conundrum or polarizing question that the system is meant to resolve or live out. We have core beliefs, core values and our bodies have a core. Too often when we encounter a “core workout,” the goal becomes unearthing our six back abs. A six pack is a beautiful thing, if it’s a reflection of a strong, supple supported spine and a powerhouse digesting food, emotion and experience at its center. But if we focus on the six pack, we never get to the real work of digesting our lives and building a strong, flexible center around values that support all we do. In this sequence, continually imagine all the muscles of your abdomen, back, sides and pelvis hugging your spine and lifting each vertebrae up from the one below.

Things you might want to have handy: Yoga Mat, Blankets

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

 

Step 1: Starting Position, Staff
Duration: 5 breaths
Pose Review: Staff Pose

Staff pose is to seated postures what Mountain pose is to standing: home base. Sit on your mat with your sitting bones elevated on blankets or block and extend your legs out fully in front of you. Flex your feet and lift your kneecaps. Press your tented fingertips into the mat just behind your hips as you draw your shoulder blades together and lift your sternum, elongating your spine. Breathe.

Inhale, feel your chest and abdomen and back expand in every direction. Exhale, draw in and hug your center. With every inhale, feel the breath supporting your expansion and release. With every exhale, return to your center.


Step 2: Simple Seated Twist

Duration: 5-7 breaths
Pose Review: Simple Seated Twist

Draw your heels in one at a time, knees resting on the floor so that you are sitting in easy pose. If your knees are not resting on the floor, support them with blankets or blocks so you have a stable foundation and can release the low body towards the floor.

Inhale, lift your arms to shoulder height and lift your heart, feeling the expansiveness of your breath. Exhaling, start to twist to the right from just behind your belly button and follow that motion up your spine as you lower your hands, resting your left hand on the outside of your right knee, and right hand on the floor beside or behind your right hip. Do not press your shoulders farther than you can turn your turn your ribcage. Just enjoy the breath and allow it to deepen your experience of revolution. You may face the same direction as your chest, or turn your head as far as ease allows.

Feel the rotation of your body around your central axis and allow the movement and rotation to reveal your center to you.

To come out of the pose, inhale and release your hands as you slowly and mindfully draw your abdominals toward your spine and unwind from the bottom up.


Step 3-4:
Repeat other side, from Staff


Step 5: Cat Pose
Duration: 1 breath, 5 times
Pose Review: Cat Pose

Reach forward and come to a tabletop position with your knees under your hips and your hands under your shoulders. From neutral, inhale and allow your tailbone to curl up as your belly and chest descend toward the floor and your head reaches gently up. Feel the stretch all along your spine as your breath expands your torso in every direction. Exhale, turn your tailbone under and follow the wave up your spine, lifting your belly strongly, letting your shoulder blades slide around the sides of your ribcage as it rises follows and your head descends. Press the floor away. Feel your torso press the breath up and out of your body.  Repeat another 4 times.


Step 6: Hands and Knee Balance Pose
Duration: 5 breaths each side
Pose Review: Hand and Knee Balance Pose

With a neutral spine, exhale and reach your left heel back, straightening your left leg parallel to the floor, toes pointed toward the ground. Reach your right hand out in front of you, thumb up, arm parallel to the floor. Inhale, and on an exhale lift your heel and hand as high as comfortable, keeping your neck neutrally aligned. Stay here and breathe, keeping your core engaged and hugging your spine. On your final exhalation, mindfully draw your hand and knee to the ground. Inhale into cow and exhale into cat before repeating on the opposite side.


Step 7: Cobra Pose
Duration: 3-5 breaths
Pose Review: Cobra Pose

Lower your body to the ground through chest-chin-knees and bring your hands under your shoulders, elbows back along your ribcage. Press your pelvis and feet into the ground, inhaling. Exhale and lift your head and upper chest off the ground. Lengthen your tailbone down, reaching towards your feet, and on your next exhalation, press into your hands, drawing your chest first forward and then lifting up, only so far as your low back is comfortable and your pelvis on the floor. Draw your chin back, and maintain a neutral neck, relaxed face and jaw and open gaze.  Feel the stretch along the front of your body and all your muscles supporting your spine as you notice how it feels to breathe in this position.


Step 8: Boat Pose

Duration: 5-10 breaths
Pose Review: Boat Pose

Lowering down with a long, slow exhalation, allow your breath to normalize before coming up into a tabletop position. Swing your feet in front of you as you sit back, with your knees pointed to the ceiling. Lightly hold the back of your thighs just above your knees, draw your pelvic floor and abdominals in and up as you lift your sternum. Lean back only so far as you can maintain your spinal alignment and your sitting bones pressing into the surface beneath you. You may choose to release your hands and reach forward, and extend one or both legs. Breathe fully and deeply into your chest, while you maintain a relaxed, even smiling, face.


Step 9: Cobra

Duration: 5 breaths
Pose Review: Cobra Pose

Roll forward to a tabletop position and lower yourself through chest, chin and knees, mindfully, to the floor. We’ll release the abdominal effort with the moderate backbend of cobra. With your hands beneath your shoulders and your elbows back beside your ribs, on an inhale draw your palms isometrically back and feel your chest broaden and your sternum draw forward. Exhaling, begin the upward and backward lift with the muscles of your back, lifting your ribcage away from your pelvis and up and then pressing into your hands only so far as you can maintain a lifted belly, tailbone drawn toward your feet and a strong, easy low back. Keep the neck neutral and the face and gaze soft.


Step 10: Plank
Duration 15 breaths, working up to 2 minutes
Pose Review: Plank Pose

Mindfully lower down to the floor and allow your breath to normalize. Notice how it feels to breathe in this position and where breathing moves your body. When you’re ready, bring your elbows under your shoulders and lightly interlace your fingers in front of you.

Inhale, turn your toes under, lift your knees, lengthen your low back and draw your tailbone toward your heels.

Exhale and lift your pelvic floor. Lift your belly so strongly that you lift your entire spine up from the floor and maintain your body in one strong line from your heels to your shoulders through the top of your head.

Lift your hips until they’re in line with your entire body. Relax the space between your ears and arms. Draw your shoulder blades together on your back and allow your heart to melt toward the floor. Your neck and shoulders are soft enough that you can easily turn your head from side to side. Stay as long as you can maintain an even, full breath through your nose and then lower down.

    
Step 11-16:
Repeat steps 5-10 from Cat Pose

 

Perform the relaxation sequence to complete this routine.
   


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