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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 20: Sphinx Roll Up

This move is one of my all-time favorite core exercises because you can go slowly and deliberately and really feel what’s going on. Plus, you get a really nice chest and shoulder opener in the process.

If you’ve never done this one before, make sure to go slowly and methodically for maximum benefit.

Let’s Do It

  • From forearm plank, come onto your belly. Keep your elbows under your shoulders and your forearms extended on the ground, palms flat on the ground.
  • Roll your shoulders back and extend your chest forward into sphinx pose.
  • Gaze straight ahead.
  • Inhale and expand more in your chest, feel your belly button.
  • Slowly exhale, start to drop your gaze toward your belly. As you do, lift your belly off the ground, then your hips and then your thighs until you’re in a kneeling forearm plank.
  • For an extra challenge, tuck your toes under and lift your knees into full forearm plank.
  • Inhale in forearm plank.
  • Exhale, begin to slowly roll down onto your thighs, hips, belly, lifting your gaze and returning to sphinx.
  • Continue through three to five rounds, moving slowly with your breath and feeling the articulation of your spine the whole way up and down.

Here’s Susan Leslie giving a fantastic demonstration of Sphinx Roll Up for us. Susan is a gifted kids yoga and vinyasa yoga instructor. She teaches at Soul Wednesdays at 4:30 and a kids class at Barre Energy on Thursdays at 4 p.m. If you have elementary-aged kids, Susan’s class is a wonderful way to immerse your kids in a playful yoga practice.

I hope you’re having fun with this month of core! I certainly am enjoying it. Please let me know if you have questions, comments, ideas. I love to hear your feedback! Come to Soul at 9 a.m. and/or 4:30 and practice with me!

~ Shoshana

Summer of Core Day 17: Spinal Balance Challenge

Today we’re going to put this week’s moves into a sequence to challenge yourself.

We move from your Plank to all fours and right into spinal balance, then knee to elbow crunch, to side plank T-Flow.

I’ll break it down.

  1. Hold Plank 3 long breaths. This is YOUR version of plank, make it strong.
  2. Come to All Fours.
  3. Inhale, Spinal Balance on one side.
  4. Exhale, knee to elbow crunch. Repeat 3 rounds.
  5. Inhale, Spinal Balance.
  6. Exhale, Kneeling Side Plank.
  7. Inhale up to a “T” (flow from yesterday). Take 3 “T” flows.
  8. Return to all fours.
  9. Plank 3 breaths.
  10. Switch sides.
  11. Keep going with another round on both sides or rest in Child’s Pose.

Here’s the full sequence in a video:

This sequence will definitely get your breath and blood flowing. Have fun with it, and challenge yourself to do more than one round!

~ Shoshana

 

Summer of Core Day 16: Side Plank T-Flows

I made this one up. Well, I’m sure I picked some of it up somewhere. But I certainly made up the name. It’s not so much side plank as it is a chance to utilize your obliques in a new way.

Here’s Katy for a second day in a row demonstrating the move.

Thanks again Katy for being a wonderful model and dedicated student!

Let’s Do It

  • Begin in kneeling side plank with your right knee down and left arm to the sky.
  • Inhale, lift from your left arm so your right arm lifts off the ground and both arms form a “T”, palms facing down, arms out to the sides, torso stacked over hips.
  • Exhale, float your left hand to your left thigh. Reach your right arm straight up.
  • Inhale, extend toward the sky, stretching from your right knee through the whole right side of your body up to your finger tips.
  • Exhale, float your right arm back to the ground with control, left arm to the sky, returning to side plank.
  • Repeat this flow five to ten times. Switch sides.

Alignment Tune-Up

  • In kneeling side plank, make sure your bottom arm is stacked beneath your shoulders, so there’s a long, straight line running from your bottom hand through your chest and shoulders and up your lifted arm.
  • Bring your bottom knee directly under your bottom hip for optimal stability.
  • Extend your top leg straight out so the foot is in line with your bottom knee. You should feel like your body is in one singular plane.
  • Engage your extended thigh and keep your top hip lifted, core engaged.

Why Flow?

We primarily practice vinyasa yoga, meaning yoga that flows with the breath. It becomes a moving meditation, which can be very effective in clearing the mind and reducing stress from our hectic, daily lives.

“The Western world has become a seated society, which is why vinyasa yoga is so important: its orientation is breath and movement, and research shows that increased movement in a seated society is absolutely essential for health. Vinyasa yoga gets us moving.” ~ Eddie Modestini, renowned yoga instructor and student of BKS Iyengar and Sri K. Pattabhi Jois

I hope that this flow and yesterday’s flow will get you moving today and you’ll find some joy and freedom in the practice.

~ Shoshana

Summer of Core Day 15: Spinal Balance Flow

We are nearly halfway through our month of core. I hope you are feeling a difference! I know I am feeling stronger and more aware of my abs during yoga and other activities.

Today we’re going to have some fun optional flows for Spinal Balance, which we worked to fine tune yesterday.

So take that well-aligned Spinal Balance and let’s get to work.

Flow Option 1: Alternate sides with breath

  • Inhale to a solid Spinal Balance on one side.
  • Exhale return to all fours.
  • Inhale, switch sides.
  • Exhale return to all fours.
  • Repeat for three to five rounds.
  • Rest in Child’s Pose.

As you move through this flow, keep your breath flowing long, and stretch out your movement to match that long breath. Try to keep your hips stable and your core engaged. Extend through your heel and your fingertips to get long on your inhale.

Flow Option 2: Knee-to-Nose Crunch

  • Inhale to a solid Spinal Balance on one side.
  • Exhale and pull your knee to your elbow, meeting near your belly button, arching your back.
  • Inhale, extend to Spinal Balance.
  • Exhale, return to all fours.
  • Switch sides.
  • Repeat three to five full rounds.
  • You can make this more challenging by continuing on one side for three to five reps, then switching sides.

Flow Option 3: Sunbird

  • Inhale to a solid Spinal Balance on one side.
  • Bend your extended leg so your foot is facing the ceiling.
  • Inhale, lift your foot straight up to get into the glutes.
  • Exhale bring your knee to your elbow.
  • Inhale and extend, keeping your knee bent and foot toward the ceiling.
  • Repeat on one side three to five times. Switch sides.

Flow Option 4: Leg & Arm Reach

  • Inhale to a solid Spinal Balance on one side.
  • Exhale, reach your extended arm and leg out to opposite sides simultaneously.
  • Inhale, return to Spinal Balance.
  • Repeat on one side for three to five reps. Switch sides.
  • Try to keep your back flat and your torso immobile as you move your limbs in and out.

Rest in Child’s Pose.

Katy Mangan demonstrates each variation on the flow in this video.

Thanks Katy for the great demo! Katy is often in the morning flow and power classes, a dedicated student and a talented storyteller. She regularly collaborates with instructor Dawn Justice for a restorative yoga and storytelling class at Soul. It’s a real treat!

Have fun with today’s options. You might string them all together into one long flow, or take breaks between the series. These are great flows to do in the morning, as they are energizing and get the cardiovascular system going. Enjoy!

~ Shoshana

Summer of Core Day 14: Spinal Balance

Today’s pose, spinal balance, is one that takes core strength in the back muscles as well as the front for stability.


Spinal balance, dandayamna bharmasana in Sanskrit, is also known as balancing table in some yoga circles. It’s often called a beginner’s pose, but in my experience, it takes a lot of body awareness and control to execute and can be a challenge to hold.

I love using it as a warm-up, because it helps you get a feel for elongating your body while connecting to your core. In my classes I often incorporate it into a flow to get the breath linked to movement. But today, we are going to break down this pose and get into proper alignment for optimum benefit.

Let’s Do It

  • From hands and knees (use a blanket or a doubled-up mat under your knees if they’re sensitive), bring your belly button in towards your spine to firm your abs and flatten your back.
  • Keep your gaze at the ground and draw your shoulders away from your ears for length in your neck.
  • Extend your left leg behind you, keeping toes on the ground.
  • Press through your heel to strengthen your thigh and feel strong from hip to heel.
  • Inhale, lift your leg to hip height.
  • Extend your right arm forward, turning your palm to face in, your thumb to the sky.
  • Work to keep your hips level and your abs turned on as you breathe.
  • Hold for three to five breaths. Switch sides.

Options

  • Lift your leg only, not your arm if you feel unstable or wobbly. Work on your balance and strength from here.
  • If your wrists bother you, use fists for wrists or come to your forearms.

Fine-Tune the Alignment

In class, I often see students with concave backs, their bellies dipping toward the ground and their leg and arm coming higher than shoulder or hip height. To maximize the benefits of this pose:

  • Try to keep your leg at hip level.
  • Keep your core muscles engaged to support your back and keep it flat.
  • Lift your arm just to shoulder height.
  • Think about reaching out and back, creating length rather than height.
  • Keep your gaze at the ground, your neck long.

It can be helpful to have someone watch you and tell you when you are in proper alignment or to do this in front of a full-length mirror, though you may know my thoughts on mirrors and yoga.

As always, let me know if you have any questions, if anything’s not clear or if you just want to say hi!

Have a great time with this one. Come see me in class today at 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.!

~ Shoshana

 

 

Summer of Core Day 13: Plank

Welcome to Week 3!

We’re going to do some fun flows this week. I’m looking forward to showing them to you.

But for now, it’s time to up that Plank time! Hopefully you recorded your time from last Monday. Today you will add 5 seconds to that time.

how-to-do-plank-pose-yoga

Remember to stay tight through your core, especially in your lower abs, pulling them up and in. If you are on your knees, make sure you feel like you’re working and you have a nice, flat back and a diagonal line from your shoulders to your knees.

Those of you I saw this week in class, we worked a lot on fine tuning plank alignment and working to really feel engagement in the core to stay strong and stable. Keep up the good work!

Remember Your Options

You can always be in kneeling plank. In fact, it’s a good place to start. If you’re feeling really strong, lift your knees into full plank. When and if you start to feel your form disintegrate, come back to your knees.

You can also be on your forearms. If your wrists get fatigued or painful with the weight of the body in straight-arm plank, drop onto your forearms, but keep your strong, straight alignment in the rest of your body.

Happy First Week of School!

For those of you in the classroom as teachers or with kids heading off to school this week, I hope the transition goes smoothly. I know my boys (identical twins) are looking forward to starting 5th grade today. They finally got excited about it Sunday evening, and they have decided they will not dress the same to be kind to their new teacher and not confuse her so much on the first day. One will wear their Steph Curry jersey on Monday, the other will wear it on Tuesday. Problem solved. They’re getting so sophisticated!

Questions? Comments?

Please, please let me know if you have any questions about alignment or how something should feel or look as we go through this month together. Obviously the easiest way for me to show you proper technique and form is in person, so come to class! But if that’s not possible, send me a quick email or comment on the blog. I’d love to hear from you.

~ Shoshana