Yoga for The Core

It is a dream of everyone to have flat tummy with strong muscles popping out in 6 packs figure.  There are many ways to achieve this, however, is it a strong muscles or just a shape?.  Having a better understanding in muscles anatomy will give an idea on how to build which muscles.  It is all connected in the body; one muscle is actually helping the other muscle to be able to build toned and strong muscles.
Yoga is not just about increasing flexibility or relaxing the mind, thru flexibility and controlled mind you can also strengthening the core to have toned and tight tummy. Along the practice, this will help to develop the strength that is required on inversion poses and arm balancing.  As a regular practitioner, I found it very helpful to keep on practicing on these five poses as a base pose.

navasana 1Navasana – Boat Pose

Find a comfortable sit position on your tail bones.  Bring your legs close together then lift up to your chest with bended knees. Lift both arms straight forward then balance for few seconds and get comfortable.
Start to straighten your legs up slowly in control and keep your back straight.  If you have a tendency to hunch your back, bend your legs close to your chest to the maximum point where your body can be straightened.  The idea of this action is not to have your legs straightened, but to keep your spine long and lengthen by pulling in your belly.  This is how you build your core.  Stay there for 5 long breaths or few seconds by regulate your long breathing steady.
When you are ready, you can cross your legs, inhale, start doing the crunches in the air (upper body and legs not fully dropping to the ground).  Do it few rounds and you will feel the benefits on doing other poses with core.  To release, exhale, let the legs and upper body fully drop to the ground and relax for few breath.
Contradiction and Cautions
Asthma, Diarrhea, Headache, Heart Problems, Insomnia, Low blood pressure, Menstruation, Pregnancy and Neck injury: Sit with your back near a wall to perform this pose.  As you tilt your torso back rest the back of your head on the wall.
Chaturanga Dandasana – Four-Limbed Staff Posechaturanga1
Get into Santolasana or high plank position, inhale, slowly lower your body down creating 90 degree angle arms and keep the arms close to the body.  Always remember, within first inhalation, keep your tail bone in, pulling your belly in to the spine, strengthened your shoulder-arms and round your back just enough to distribute or shifting the weight of your body.  This action is very helpful to prevent wrist injury, as most people would rely on their palms to carry all the weight on this position.  Stay for 5 long breaths or longer.  Always regulate your breathing slow and steady.
When you are ready, you can do push-up for few rounds from santolasana to chaturanga.  To exit the pose, exhale, drop your body down to the ground slowly then straightened your arms forward.
Practice Surya Namaskar A and B as warming up, dynamic chaturanga will empower your strength to the next level.
Contradiction and Cautions
Carpal tunnel syndrome and Pregnancy.
SidePlankPose1Vasisthasana – Side Plank Pose
Get into Adho Mukha Savanasana (downward facing dog), Shift onto the outside edge of your left foot, and stack your right foot on top of the left. Now swing your right hand onto your right hip, turn your torso to the right as you do, and support the weight of your body on the outer left foot and left hand.  Make sure that the supporting hand is not directly below its shoulder; position the hand slightly in front of its shoulder, so the supporting arm is angled a bit relative to the floor. Straighten the arm by firming the triceps muscle, and press the base of the index finger firmly against the floor.  Firm the scapulas and sacrum against the back torso. Strengthen the thighs, and press through the heels toward the floor. Align your entire body into one long diagonal line from the heels to the crown and pulling your belly in towards the spine.
When you are ready, you can stretch the top arm toward the ceiling, parallel to the line of the shoulders. Keep the head in a neutral position, or turn it to gaze up at the top hand.  Stay for 5 breaths or longer and find stability in you.
To exit the pose, inhale, back to adho mukha savanasana position and repeat for the other side.
Contradiction and Cautions
Serious wrist, elbow or shoulder injuries should avoid this pose.
bakasanaBakasana – Crow Pose
Squatting down from Tadasana with feet hip width apart.  Keep the heels on the ground or supported by blocks or folded blanket/towel.  Stretch the arms forward, bend the elbow and place the palms strongly against the ground.  Bring the knees to the inner armpits.  Get steady and comfortable on this position for few second.
Bring your inner thighs against the sides of your torso, knees on the armpits.  Lower your arms by lifting up buttocks and place the shins against the upper arms with control.  Keep tailbone as close as possible to the heels and start to round your back and contract the front torso.
Set the drishti point by creating triangular shape starting from your palms as horizontal line (base of the triangle). Inhale, slowly lean forward and slowly shifting the weight to the arms and shoulder blade by rounding your back.  Feet should be on tip-toe position.  For beginner, you might want to stop on this step by trying to lifting up the feet off the ground with bended arms, then exit the pose slowly.
If you are ready to go deeper, squeeze the side torso to inner thigh firmly.  Set the drishti, inhale deeply, squeeze the legs against the arms, press the inner arms and palms firmly to the ground and slowly straighten the elbow. With an inhalation, contract the mula-bandha, lift the buttocks high up, look to the ground or start bring your head slightly up, look forward without compressing the back of the neck.  Stay for five breath or longer.
Exit the pose slowly within exhalation by lowering your feet down in control to malasana position.  If you are ready to take a challenge, you can exit the pose by (inhale, lock mula-bandha) jumping back from the hips or kicking your feet back in the same time with cautions and control, take a flight to land on chaturanga dandasana position then vinyasa.
Contradiction and Cautions
Carpal tunnel syndrome and Pregnancy.
half headstandArdha Shirsasana – Half Head Stand Pose
Kneel on the floor. Lace your fingers together and set the forearms on the ground creating a triangular base, elbows at shoulder width.  Place the crown of your head or the flat area on the mat, at the same time press the inner wrists firmly into the ground.
Inhale and lift your knees off the floor. Slowly walk your feet in control closer to your elbows, heels elevated. Actively lift through the top thighs, forming an inverted “V.” Firm the shoulder blades against your back and lift them toward the tailbone so the front torso stays as long as possible. This should help prevent the weight of the shoulders collapsing onto your neck and head.
Inhale, pull your belly in toward the spine, lift your feet away from the floor. Take both feet up at the same time. As the legs rise to perpendicular to the floor, firm the tailbone against the back of the pelvis. Turn the upper thighs in slightly, and actively press the heels toward the ceiling. The center of the arches should align over the center of the pelvis, which in turn should align over the crown of the head. Stay for 5 breaths or longer.
Inhale, pull your belly in and slowly lowering your legs in control to form 90 degree angle from your hips. While lowering your legs, shift the weight on the buttocks area forward along with strong mula-bandha. Stay for 5 breaths or longer.
To exit, inhale, bring your legs up slowly in control to shirsasana position then exhale, completely lower down your legs to the ground.
Contradiction and Cautions
Back injury, Headache, Heart condition, High blood pressure, Menstruation, Neck injury, Low blood pressure: Do not start practice with this pose
Pregnancy: If you are experienced with this pose, you can continue to practice it late into pregnancy. However, do not take up the practice of Sirsasana after you become pregnant.
Sirsasana is considered to be an intermediate to advanced pose. Do not perform this pose without sufficient prior experience.
Keep on practicing! Surprisingly, soon you can effortlessly lift up your body higher than you thought.
Rhea – Ashtanga 200hr, weekday 2015