RSS Feed

Category Archives: Summer of Core

Success with Summer of Core

Sometimes it’s hard to stick with the program. It’s hard to commit, it’s hard to keep it going.

But those times when you do, when you really stick to your guns, the outcome can be more than what you expect.

Katy Mangan

When Katy Mangan signed up to be a part of Summer of Core, she said she did so reluctantly. Though she has a dedicated yoga practice of four to five times a week, she wasn’t sure she wanted to commit more time to working on strengthening her core.

She started getting the emails and dutifully carried out each day’s exercise, and soon she began to notice an improvement not only in her abs and arms but in her attitude. “I feel stronger, so I feel more confident,” she said, sitting outside of Soul Yoga after class.

“Now I can really begin to realign my poses. Like in Warrior I and II, I can work on fine-tuning it,” she said. “Because I’ve gotten stronger, I’ve noticed I don’t have [the poses] down.”

Katy said her balance has also improved as her core strength has grown. She also feels proud of herself that she stuck with the program. In fact, she said, holding plank has become quite enjoyable.

“Plank now is a very reassuring pose for me, instead of being difficult,” she said. “It’s obviously what I need.”

 

Summer of Core Day 27: Finale Flow

Well, we made it! The last day of Summer of Core.

I have to say it’s a little bittersweet for me This has been so much fun, both to concoct all this and to share it with all of you. I have loved practicing in class with you, and hearing about your experiences outside of class.

Today’s “finale” is like a Summer of Core greatest hits put together in a flow. See the video below (it’s about 10 minutes long).

Let’s Do It

Here’s the breakdown:

  1. Straight-Arm Plank (Day 1, 3 breaths)
  2. Side Plank with arm tuck (Day 9, 3-4 reps on each side)
  3. Forearm Plank (Day 19, 3 breaths)
  4. Dolphin Push-Ups (Day 21, 3 reps)
  5. Spinal Balance Knee to Nose Crunch (Day 15, 3-4 reps each side)
  6. Side Plank T-Flows (Day 16, 3-4 reps each side)
  7. Boat (Day 3, 3 breaths)
  8. Boat with Obliques (Day 5, 3 reps on each side)
  9. Low Boat (Day 4, hold for three breaths)
  10. Hip Lifts (Day 23, 3 reps)
  11. Writing Your Name in Cursive (Day 12)
  12. Sphinx Roll Up (Day 20, 3 reps)
  13. Cobra/Upward Facing Dog
  14. Child’s Pose

It’s Been Fun!

Thank you for being a part of Summer of Core. I hope that it helped give you more core strength and greater awareness of how a strong core supports a strong and healthy yoga practice and everyday movement.

I hope you can continue to work on building and maintaining core strength on your own using all the exercises of Summer of Core.

~ Shoshana

Summer of Core Day 26: L-Sit

Now that we’ve been practicing Summer of Core for almost a month (tomorrow is the last day!), we should have a much stronger core than we did when we started.

So I’m throwing in this “L-sit,” bramcharyasana in Sanskrit, which is a true challenge.

L-sit

When I first attempted this many, many years ago, actually the first time it was suggested to me by my yoga teacher I started laughing. How was I going to get my hips off the ground? My arms were too short! My arms weren’t strong enough! Etc. Etc.

Practice and all is coming, right? As the Ashtanga school guru K. Pattabhi Jois carried as a mantra, I continued to practice this but still could not get my hips to lift off the ground!

Then a teacher introduced the pose with blocks. What an awakening!

With the help of the blocks, I finally lifted my hips off the ground! I could feel the deep core strength needed to control this pose. The use of breath. The slightly tilted upper body position. Things began to unravel to make sense! It’s still a work in progress for me, as I can’t lift my legs off the ground yet. But…it’s coming.L-sit blocks

Still, L-sit requires strength. Good thing we’ve been building it up!

Let’s Do It

  • Sitting in staff pose, dandasana, legs extended on the floor, sitting up tall, hands alongside the hips.
  • Walk your hands about one hand length in front of your hips, finger pointing toward your toes.
  • Bring a block under each hand.
  • Inhale to lengthen your spine.
  • Exhale, draw your belly button up and in and press into the floor with your hands.
  • Your hips may or may not lift from the ground.
  • If your hips lift off the ground, try also lifting your legs by contracting your quads and pulling your femurs in toward your hip sockets.
  • Hold for as long as you can, maintaining your deep breath.
  • Release.
  • If you were able to lift your hips from the ground, try it without a block next time!

We’ll practice this in class today 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Join me!

~ Shoshana

 

Summer of Core Day 25: Plank Till You Drop

The other day in class, I said “Ok, this plank is until failure.” I got some chuckles and groans, and later, reflecting on my language I realized that “failure” is not something we say in yoga class very often.

But it’s worth exploring a little bit. The “until failure” directive I must have picked up from my CrossFit friends talking about their WODs (Workout of the Day). And what it means is until you can’t do any more, that you are so tired, your muscles so fatigued, that another rep, another pushup, another pull up, or whatever the exercise, is not an option. That is totally CrossFit culture. Not so much in yoga.

In yoga we say, “listen to your body,” and “come to your edge.” That edge is when your body tells you that you are working to your limit but not going beyond it in a way that will cause your body harm. You are pushing yourself, but not falling over the cliff, so to speak. This is a way of taking care of yourself, feeling good about where you are, building body awareness and trying to avoid injury. These are all good things, and as someone who is as capable as the next person to practice negative self talk, being kind to myself and allowing myself to back off when I need to is empowering.

That said, planking “until failure” is another way of building empowerment. Testing how long you can hold your body in this challenging position while maintaining good form, strong breath and a keen awareness of the moment.

We’ve been going on this Summer of Core journey now for almost an entire month. If you’re practicing regularly, you should be feeling quite strong. The weekly plank test is one way to gauge your increased strength.

So today, we will plank until we drop, until our form falls apart and we need to rest. Maybe you’ll feel your shoulders sag, or your belly sink toward the ground. Maybe your arms will begin to tremble, or your breathing will become too labored to go on. Or maybe you’ll lose the engagement in your lower abs. Pay attention to all of this, and when it’s time to come out, come out and be proud of yourself for your hard work and dedication.

Now, go do your plank with a time, and let me know how it goes!

Happy planking!

~ Shoshana

 

Summer of Core Day 24: Mointain Pose/ Pelvic Floor Awareness

Happy Saturday (again)! Our last Saturday of Summer of Core!

Is it me, or has this month flown by? I hope that however fast August seems to have gone by for you that your core, at least, has been feeling like it’s been putting in some long hours!

Today, similar to last Saturday, we are going to be doing an exercise that can be done anywhere at any time: Mountain Pose, tadasana in Sanskrit.

For those of you who have been to my class, you know that I like to go through a long series of body awareness to get into a full Mountain Pose. After finding the feet and strength in the legs, we travel right up into our pelvic floor. But what is the pelvic floor?

pelvic_floor

Here’s an illustration of a female body, identifying the pelvic floor. Men have pelvic floor too!

In short, it’s the muscle that keeps everything from falling out.

Finding the pelvic floor, however, can be difficult. But there are a couple of ways:

  • Imagine you’re zipping up a tight pair of pants. Feel your low abs pull up and in, as if you’re lifting from the ground up.
  • Imagine wading into cold water. When it gets to your pelvic area, you cinch up.
  • It’s a similar feeling to retaining urine, though with less urgency!
  • Kegels! Kegels are a contraction and relaxation of the pelvic floor muscles. If you’ve done Kegel exercises before, you have worked your pelvic floor! To keep the pelvic floor engaged, don’t release, but continue to contract gently, feeling a subtle lift.

Hopefully, one of these ways will work for you. Remember that this is a subtle move. You should be able to keep your pelvic floor lifted and engaged while breathing, even with deep, yogic breath.

Moving into Mountain

  • Standing with your feet hip-width apart, close your eyes.
  • Imagine your feet rooting into the ground, forming your foundation.
  • Allow the ground to push up into your feet, drawing that energy up your legs.
  • Lift your kneecaps, engage your thighs.
  • And now lift the pelvic floor!
  • Feel your low, deep abs engage and lift, followed by a lifting throughout your entire spine.
  • Reach to the sky from the crown of your head.
  • Relax your shoulders down and back, away from your ears.
  • Stretch your arms long, reaching through your fingers, palms forward.
  • Draw your ears back in line with your shoulders.
  • Soften the muscles in your face, your jaw, your throat.
  • Pause and breathe.

Foundation for Everything

Mountain pose is a fundamental pose for all standing postures, and I like to bring a reminder into my classes to think about your posture and engagement in mountain pose in many other positions. It’s especially helpful in balancing positions, as the act of lifting from your center, getting long and stable, engaging your core and standing tall will give you a stronger ability to hold a balancing pose.

Do It All Day Long

So today, and for the rest of the weekend, take time to check in with your pelvic floor, while you’re washing dishes, or watching TV or reading a book, or sitting at a baseball game (which I will be doing later). Get used to that feeling and give yourself permission to bring it into a daily practice.

See you on Monday for our last three days of Summer of Core!

~ Shoshana

Summer of Core Day 23: Hip lift –> Jack Knife

We’re going to get onto our backs today, with a move that gets deep into the transverse abdominis.

Hip Lift

This move can be done simply by lifting the hips with the legs extended toward the sky. You’ll definitely start to feel it after a couple of lifts if you use lots of control.

Let’s Do It

  • Lie flat on your back, your arms alongside your body.
  • Extend your legs to the sky.
  • Inhale, lift your hips toward the sky, reaching the souls of your feet up as well.
  • Exhale, lower all the way back down slowly, with control. Legs stay lifted.
  • Repeat five to 10 times.

Add on To It

For a bit more dynamic work, add an upper body reach, coming into the Jack Knife exercise.

  • On your back with your legs elevated upward, extend your arms behind your head.
  • Take a big inhale to stretch long.
  • Exhale, reach your hands to touch your feet, while reaching your feet to touch your hands.
  • Your hips and shoulders should come off the ground as you reach.
  • Inhale, return to position one.
  • Repeat five to 10 rounds.

Have fun with this one!

~ Shoshana