Yoga students often request core strengthening aspects to a yoga practice and for great reasons. Strengthening your core helps to prevent back pain and helps to support the important pelvic organs.
First – What is the Core?
Often, when people think about the core, they focus on the “six pack” abs. But for pelvic health, you need to strengthen the deep core—also known as the “core four”:
- Diaphragm: the dome-shaped muscle attached to the base of the ribs that moves with respiration
- Transverse abdominus: the muscles that form a girdle around your midsection and are activated during movement of limbs
- Multifidus: a series of muscles attached to the spinal column
- Pelvic floor: collection of muscles, nerves, tendons, blood vessels, ligaments and connective tissue all intertwined in the pelvis.
How Can You Strengthen Your Core?
- Squat every day – if you have no contraindications to squatting try to fit time in for squatting every day. In the garden, playing with your child or pet, reading and of course in your yoga practice. Your core will thank you.
- Breathe fully – the diaphragm and the pelvic floor move together. As Sinead Dufour, (pelvic floor physiotherapist), described – the pelvic floor and diaphragm are BFFs – they want to “hand out together” all the time.So long deep breathing helps to strengthen both the diaphragm and the pelvic floor. A specific breath practice to both strengthen and relax the pelvic floor is Jelly Fish breath (below).
- Sit comfortably on an exercise ball or firm cushion with your sitz bones and perineum in contact with the ball/cushion. Let your spine be aligned so that you have a natural low back curve.
- Close your eyes and imagine a jellyfish floating gently down to the bottom of the ocean as you inhale. Notice how it opens wide and relaxes just as your pelvic floor relaxes, your ribs expand and your diaphragm relaxes down.
- On your exhale visualize the jelly fish gently lifting up and closing, just as your pelvic floor and diaphragm lift and the ribs go back to neutral.
- Each inhale expands the rib cage and each exhale allows the ribs to relax and close towards each other.