Use Yoga to Boost Core Strength: Better Balance and Stability

Updated on August 10, 2020
LilianeNajm profile image

Certified to teach Yoga, Meditation, Reiki, Pilates; ongoing YogaU Online Yoga & Wellness Educator professional training. I love to write.

Core Muscles

Aerobic activity burns abdominal fat, but yoga poses strengthen and tone the core muscles. Yogic Sun Salutation is a core strengthener and a great fat burner when done in a correct, fast and repeated way.

What we usually call our core is our midriff that involves all the muscles in that area including the front, back and sides. The core includes these muscles: transversus abdomini, erector spinae, obliques and the lower latissimus. The role of these muscles is to stabilize the entire body.

Our core is a group of muscles that consists of more than what we usually refer to as the abs or the ‘six pack’. A lot of of these muscles are hidden under the external muscles that we usually work.

The major core muscles are the pelvic floor, transverses abdomini, multifidus, internal and external obliques, rectus abdomini, erector spinae, and diaphragm. The minor core muscles include the latissimus dorsi, gluteus maximus, and trapezius.

Why Are Core Muscles Important?

Most physical activities, whether in sports or in daily life, rely on stable core muscles. Strengthening the core trains the muscles in our pelvis, lower back, hips and abdomen to work as a group. This gives us better balance and stability.

Yoga Benefits

In my Yoga and Wellness Educator training, I learned the value of the core that is the center of our physical balance and strength. It is related to our emotions and spiritual life. A strong core aligns us with our internal center of balance and power, and gives us the energy and flexibility to deal with the good and bad experiences that life throws our way.

A strong core creates strength of will to succeed. By strengthening and revitalizing our core muscles, we connect this foundational part of our being to our health, vitality, and well-being.

Yoga poses strengthen the core in a balanced and integrated way. Developing core strength not only involves strengthening all the muscles of the core, it also means training these muscles to function together in a coherent way. Only by working your core in a balanced and holistic way do you achieve the kind of complete mind-body integration that true core work can create.

Re-establish your connection with your core.

Sun Saluation

Sun Salutation or Surya Namaskar
Sun Salutation or Surya Namaskar

Sun Salutation Instructions

The Sun Salutation is a series of postures performed in a single, graceful flow. A single round consists of two complete sequences, one for the right side of the body and the other for the left side.

When done in a correct, fast, and repeated way, Sun Salutation is a great fat burner.

Caution: Avoid if you have a recent or chronic injury to the knees, hips, or back.

Benefits: Builds strength and increases flexibility. If one day you think you have no time for yoga, do at least one or two rounds of the Sun Salutation.

Coordinate the movement with your breath.

  1. Mountain – Begin by standing with your feet open hip-width apart and hands in prayer pose. Take several breaths.
  2. Hands up – On your next inhalation, tilt your pelvis and in one movement raise your arms up and gently arch your back.
  3. Head to Knees – As you exhale, bend forward, bending the knees if necessary, and place your hands by your feet, fingers close to the little toes.
  4. Lunge – Inhale and step the right leg back.
  5. Plank – Exhale and step the left leg back coming into the plank position and hold a little while breathing normally.
  6. Stick – Lower your knees to the floor, buttocks close to heels, lower your chest to the floor and scroll forward.
  7. Cobra – Inhale and stretch forward and up, bending at the waist. Use your arms to lift your torso, bend back as long as it is comfortable and safe. Look straight ahead. You can keep your arms bent at the elbow.
  8. Downward Dog – Exhale, lift from the hips and push the hips up and back.
  9. Lunge – Inhale and step the right forward.
  10. Head to Knees – Exhale bring the left foot forward and come into head-to-knee position, bending your knees if necessary.
  11. Hands-up – Inhale and come up raise slowly while keeping your arms extended.
  12. Mountain – Exhale and lower your arms to the sides and bring your hands into a prayer position.
  13. Repeat the sequence, stepping with the left leg this time.

Sun Salutation sequence (see red stars).
Sun Salutation sequence (see red stars).

Avoid the Sun Salutation if You Have Osteoporosis

Sun Salutation is risky for older people with osteoporosis because of the segment of the sequence that involve a quick forward bend. These red stars show the danger points where there’s transition between a back bend and a forward bend.

Let the yoga teacher know if you have osteoporosis and she will adjust the practice by using props.

Side Plank Pose

Source

Side Plank Instructions

  • Lie on one side.
  • Holding yourself up on your elbow, place one foot on top of the other.
  • Lift your torso up, keeping shoulders, hips, and ankles in one line.
  • Start by holding 20 seconds and repeat three times on each side.

You can do the side plank pose on a carpeted floor or mat. Breathe freely. Focus on engaging your transversus abdomini, the deepest abdominal muscle and the one you feel contracting when you cough.

Plank and Modified Plank Poses Instructions

Plank Pose

In the Sun Salutation photo above, it is the fifth movement from the left.

Caution: Avoid if you have a recent or chronic injury to the hips, arms, back or shoulders.

Benefits: Builds strength in the upper and core body, lengthens the spine, and strengthens the low back muscles.

  • From forward fold step back about 130 to 160 cm and come into a push-up position.
  • Spread the fingers wide apart pointing forward, press into the palms with the arms are straight.
  • Tuck the pelvis under. Your legs, hips and torso are in a straight line.
  • Press the crown of the head forward and with the toes tucked, press the heels back.
  • Breathe and hold for three breaths.

Modified Plank pose

  • Lie on your stomach.
  • Raise yourself up so that you are resting on your forearms and your knees.
  • Align your head and neck with your back, with your shoulders above your elbows.
  • Engage your abdominal muscles.
  • Create resistance by pressing your elbows and your knees toward one another. Neither should move from their positions on the floor.
  • Hold for three breaths. Breathe freely.
  • Return to the start position.

Questions & Answers

What is the Role of our Core Muscles?

Core muscles stabilize our spine and give a firm support for all the activities we do. They help us avoid back, hip, knee and even neck injury and pain.

What is the Gluteus Maximus Muscle?

The gluteus maximus is the largest of the three glute muscles and makes up a large part of the shape and appearance of each side of the hips. It is the the prominent of our rear end.

What is the Latissimus Dorsi Muscle?

The latissimus dorsi is the largest muscle in the upper body. It is responsible for extension, adduction, transverse extension also known as horizontal abduction, flexion from an extended position, and internal rotation of the shoulder joint.

What is the Transversus Abdomini Muscle?

The Transversus Abdomini muscle is a broad paired muscular sheet located on the lateral sides of the abdominal wall. Together with the external abdominal oblique and the internal abdominal oblique, it comprises the lateral abdominal muscles.

What is the Erector Spinae Muscle?

The erector spinae is a group of muscles and tendons that run about the length of the spine on the left and the right, from the sacrum and hips to the base of the skull.

What is the Latissimus Muscle?

The latissimus dorsi is the largest muscle in the upper body. It is responsible for extension, adduction, abduction, flexion from an extended position, and internal rotation of the shoulder joint.

What is the Multifidus Muscle?

The multifarious muscle works together with the transversus abdomini and pelvic floor muscles to ensure the stability of the spine A weak multifidus muscle is associated with chronic low back pain.

10 Ways to Avoid Falling

To manage bone-thinning osteoporosis, you must prevent what may cause fractures that can threaten your autonomy, limit your mobility, cause you to become depressed, and may end in pain, disability, or even death.

Here are easy actions that can help protect your bones

  1. Clear your floors of clutter and any items that could cause you to trip over. This includes loose wires, cords, and throw rugs.
  2. Keep staircases, doorways, and corridors well lit, and put night lights in your bedroom and bathroom.
  3. Clean up spills at once.
  4. Wear rubber-soled shoes for a better grip. Do not walk around in socks.
  5. Avoid having to climb or reach for items. Keep the things you use often in easy-to-reach cabinets. You might also buy grasping tools to get at difficult-to-reach items.
  6. Add grab bars to your tub and use non-skid mats on the bathroom floor.
  7. Be careful when you are near pets. Tripping over a pet is a common cause of falls.
  8. Check with your doctor if your medication can cause dizziness, loss of balance, or have other side effects that might make you more likely to fall.
  9. Do yoga as it can improve your balance, coordination, and muscle strength.
  10. Have your vision checked on a regular basis and keep your glasses or contact lenses up to date.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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