In most of the yoga classes, the yoga instructors will tend to say ‘engage your core’. And this ‘core’, as the name suggests, is like a central link connecting the upper and lower body, and most necessary motions either originates from the core, or moves through it.
Many people will associate the ‘core’ as just the abdominal muscles, but in fact, the core is a complex series of muscles, consisting of major muscles – Pelvic floor muscles, mutlifidus, transversus abdominis, rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques, and erector spinae. The minor core muscles includes the gluteus maximus, latissimus dorsi and trapezius.
The main functions of the core muscles are:
- Protect internal organs
- Allow greater mobility between spine and trunk
- Stabilize the top part of the body over the bottom part (the top part of our body is heavy! – head, ribcage, spine, arms and organs)
- Controls the position of the pelvis – Regulates the movement between the pelvis and lumbar spine (That’s why when you suck in your core, you are actually tucking in your tail bone)
Other than just for sports activities, a strong core is also important for any physical activities in daily life. Everyday acts from just simply standing or putting on shoes calls for the core muscles requires the use of core strength. A strong core helps lead to better balance and stability, and greater efficiency of movement. And on the other hand, weak core muscles can actually impair how well your arms and legs functions, that may result in falls and injuries and even lower back pain.
Strengthening the core muscles includes not just the abdominal muscles, back muscles, and also muscles around the pelvis. And different yoga poses can help to strengthen and work on these different muscles. Some simple core strengthening yoga poses includes:
- Navasana: Rectus Abdominis, Deep Hip flexor
- Side Plank: Obliques
- Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose): Rectus Abdominis, Transverse Abdominis, Low back, Gluteus muscles
- Dolphin Pose