Written by Abbe Ciulla
About a year ago I came to terms with the fact that I had been avoiding core training in my classes. Falling victim to my monkey mind; worrying that it's boring, unpleasant or less glamorous than flow. But this was a disservice to the students. Core work is an integral part of having a balanced practice and our overall health. And the truth is, people like to be challenged.
Core work trains the muscles in your pelvis, lower back, hips and abdomen to perform harmoniously. This leads to better balance and stability, whether it be in your planks, handstands, squats or most importantly- transitions. Balanced core strength will also aid in alleviating not only back pain, but neck pain and knee pain as well.
find your strengthening shape
Learning correct alignment for core stabilization is key. Every time we change hip positions, shoulder position and spine position we hit the core muscles from a different angle. This can work for us or against us when it comes to inversions.
The image on the right represents our "strengthing shape" also known as "hollow body shape". Whether it be handstand, headstand or forearm stand this is shape we want to learn to cultivate. Core is engaged, hips, shoulders and wrists are stacked and most importantly, we are not putting dangerous pressure on the lower back and shoulders. The image on the left represents our "banana back shape" also know as "hollow back shape". This alignment is reserved SOLELY for our backbends.
But why is it when we are upside we automatically want to fall into the "banana back" shape.
Our "strengthening shape" requires more abdominal & hip strength, and more opening in the shoulders. If we are unable to broaden the upper back and fully extend the shoulders then we will start banana-ing the upper spine. If our core is weak, then we will begin to banana the lower back as well.
Repeat after me:
Bandhas. Not bananas.
What are Bandhas? Bandhas are muscle locks used in yoga to control prana (energy) and stabilize core control. In inversions we tend to use Uddiyana Bandha aka "Flying Up Lock".
Try Uddiyana Bandha: Take a big inhale, opening your chest. Exhale out your mouth and arch your spine like cow pose and release all of the air out. Close your mouth, and instead of inhaling, retain your breath, round your spine like cat, and engage your navel to your spine & cinching your abdominals like a corset. Flare your ribs out in the action of "mock inhaling" (without actually taking air in) and hollow the belly, thusly engaging all of the anterior core muscle groups, rectus & transverse abdominals, obliques all the way up to the intercostals.
core exercises to cultivate our strengthening shape & uddiyana bandha
CLICK THE IMAGE FOR WRITTEN GUIDANCE OF THE EXERCISE.
Want more exercises to help you with your inversions? Check out this short tutorial video!