Do you want to have strong, sexy abs that you actually want to show off?
(And no, I don’t think it makes me or you less of a yogi for wanting that.)
So lets talk sexy and lets talk abs because I am sure you guys are ready to get started…
Oh, and for those of you so enlightened that sexy abs mean nothing to you, chew on this for a momment…
50% of all doctor visits in the U.S. are due to back pain, for which either weak or imbalanced core muscles are responsible.
So grab your yoga mat and get your enlightened self a little stronger today.
- There are 4 muscles that make up your abdominal muscle anatomy: rectus abdominus, external oblique, internal oblique and transverse abdominus. They work together to flex the spine forward and sideways, rotate the spine, and compress the abdomen.
- Most movements involve more than one muscle.
- Possibly the most misunderstood, underrated, and overlooked of these muscles is the Transverse abdominus.
- Most people overwork the rectus abdominals, which is the largest superficial abdominal muscle
- The Transverse abdominals usually get neglected altogether. This is a huge mistake!
- An overworked rectus abdominal flattens the lumbar spine, which reverses the natural curve of the lower back, and restricts the movement of the diaphragm.
- If you overtrain your rectus abdominals your abs will protrude.
- The Transverse abdominus runs horizontally and serves as a girdle for your internal organs, and it also supports the back.
- These muscles connect to both the lower back muscles and the rectus abdominus and form a girdle for the entire midsection.
- You engage this muscle when coughing, sneezing, or exhaling forcibly.
- Unlike the other three abdominal muscles, the transversus doesn’t move your spine.
As with any new workout routine please consult your physician particularly if you suffer from back issues. And of course always warm up as well.
Begin by lying down on your back with your feet about 8 to 12 inches from your buttocks. Keep the knees and feet inline with the hips and the toes pointing straight forward. Again you want to maintain the natural curves of the spine. Your neck should have a small space underneath it to protect the cervical vertebrae, as well as your lumbar spine while keeping your tailbone pressing down.
Place your hands on the bony parts at the front of your hips. Move your hands in an inch towards your belly button and down and inch towards your toes. You should now be directly over the transversus abdominus muscle. When you contract your core correctly you should feel a gentle tightening under fingers when they are in the above position. If you feel a ‘bulge’ you are contracting too much. Failure to contract properly will mean unwanted contraction of the larger muscles surrounding the core. These will take over the movement and thus defeat the aim of the exercises. In the same position as above take a deep breath.
On exhaling focus on ‘drawing up’ from the pelvic floor muscles (mulha bhanda), and at the same time release the buttocks. Imagine that you wish to stop yourself going to the toilet while moving your sitbones away from each other. This will take practice. Be patient!
1. Pelvic Tilts
This stomach exercise requires lying on your back on a flat surface, such as the floor or a bench. Use a mat or towel to cushion your spine. Bend your knees so that your feet are flat on the floor. Raise your pelvis (and only your pelvis) off the floor, hold momentarily, and then lower it back down. Repeat for an entire set. Maintaining a controlled movement is crucial to this exercise. This will allow you to use your abdominal muscles, rather than your body’s momentum, to do the work on the exercise. Also, be sure to keep your upper body on the floor throughout.
2. Crunchless Crunch
This exercise is fairly simple but can also be fairly difficult. Essentially, it involves trying to pull the belly button in towards the spine. This can be tricky, as it involves using muscles which you may not be used to activating. To start, either lie or on your stomach or kneel. You might want to try both ways and see which helps you feel the exercise better. Relax your body as much as possible, then try to use only the lower abdominals to move your belly button toward your spine. Hold for ten seconds. If holding for ten seconds feels easy, hold for a longer period. The goal is to hold the contraction until you either cannot feel it, or you feel other muscles working harder than the transverse abdominus. When you feel this, let the contraction out. Remember your neutral spine if you can manage it here, and the engagement of the pelvic floor muscles.
3. Office workers Delight
This one is fantastic and easy to feel. Again these movements will be small and subtle to work properly; any large movement will recruit the other muscles and defeat the purpose. Sitting in your chair with your knees bent to 90 degrees. Draw the navel in towards your spine. Contract your pelvic floor muscles as if you were trying to stop the flow of urine. Maintain the contraction in your core as you tuck your pelvis and then arch your lower back. Start with a set of 40 slow controlled hip rolls.
Breath of Fire
Sit in a comfortable seated position, for most of you sliding one or two blankets under the hips will be beneficial. Sit up with the spine long reaching up through the crown of the head, and your hands placed on the knees with your eyes closed. Practice several calming breaths to get started bringing awareness throughout your body. Move into your ujjayi breath saturating the body with fresh prana. Next take an inhale and expel it with a quick strong blast by drawing the belly muscles in towards the spine. (Imagine being hit in the stomach, or a pair of bellows used to stoke fires) If you exhaled correctly your inhale will happen naturally without any effort. Continue 4 to 8 times if you are new to this to complete 1 cycle, ending with an out breath. Return to your ujjayi to recover, or if you wish you can hold onto your breath, for 5 to 8 seconds engaging the pelvic floor muscles drawing them in and up. Exhale slowly if you held the breath, and take several rounds of the ujjayi breath. This will rest your lungs and the diaphragm and prepare your body for the next round of breathing. Repeat 3 to 4 times with or without the retention. Remember to rest between cycles and relax with several rounds of deep satisfying ujjayi breaths. Afterwards take a shavasana (final relaxation pose) to release the body completely.
(Please refrain from doing this if you are pregnant, are on your cycle, or have high blood pressure. Stop if you feel dizzy or lightheaded or if your breath becomes ragged. Being a yogi means listening to what your body is telling you.)