Engage Your Core Muscles!

“Engage your core muscles!!” Everyone must have heard this phase many times during yoga asanas practise. Just about all yoga poses, from standing postures to inversions, twisting and balancing poses, require and build abdominal muscle strength and stability. Abdominal muscles consist of four main muscles, which is Rectus Abdominis (located from pubic crest to bottom of sternum), Internal and External Oblique (located along the sides of the abdomen), and the deepest muscles Transversus Abdominis (located from lilac crest to lower costal cartilages of rib cage).

The Rectus Abdominis, which is responsible for flexing the spine, is highly visible along the front of the abdomen. Contracting the rectus abdominis flexes the trunk forward. This is demonstrated in Uttanasana (forward bend pose). Tightness in this muscle limits the depth of back bends such Urdhva Danurasana (Wheel Pose). The Transversus Abdominis, is very important both as a support muscle and as an accessory muscle in breathing. The transversus wraps around much of your lower torso like a corset, supporting the internal organs and stabilizing the torso. Contracting the transversus abdominis compress the abdomen and tones the abdominal organs. This muscle is important Udyana Bandha breathing. In Navasana (boat pose), strengthen the Transversus muscle. The obliques provide support, as well as helping you bend sideways and rotate the torso. Standing pose such as Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose), the upper-side internal oblique and the lower side external oblique contract and turning the trunk. The opposites muscles are lengthened by this action. Other asana poses such as Sirsasana (Headstand) and Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-facing dog) gives the abdominal muscles a great workout.

My abdomen or I just call it fat belly had been through due to the birth of three babies within a few years. I couldn’t engage or even find my core muscle in many of the asana pose, in particular, Navasana (boat pose). My abdomen will start shaking after holding the pose for 20 seconds. I set a target to myself to do this pose every day and hold it for 30 seconds each to awaken the muscles and hopefully create a well-toned abdomen.