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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

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Summer of Core Day 21: Dolphin Push-Ups

Today we continue to build on our strong forearm plank with Dolphin Push-ups. You may have done some of these in class with me, or maybe you’ve done them somewhere else. If you have, you know that these not only target the abs, they really work your shoulders as well.

For me, breath is key to this move, as I use it to flow between Dolphin and Forearm Plank.

Watch the lovely and talented Susan Leslie demonstrate below.

Susan teaches at 4:30 today at Soul! Check out her class…maybe she’ll do some Dolphin Push-ups?

Let’s Do It

  • Come to your strong forearm plank, knees lifted.
  • Walk your feet in a little bit to get your hips high, but not all the way into a full Dolphin pose.
  • Inhale.
  • Exhale, begin to lower your body, stretching your nose over your wrists, landing in forearm plank.
  • Inhale, lift your hips, pressing your forearms into the ground.
  • Repeat five to 10 rounds.
  • Rest in child’s pose.

Keep in Mind

  • Keep your core engaged throughout, belly pulled to spine.
  • Move slowly with your breath, full inhale, full exhale.
  • Drop your hips low enough so you are flat in your forearm plank.
  • Don’t let your shoulders come farther forward than your elbows.

This move is in no way easy, but it’s such a great one for building strength that will come in handy for the rest of your yoga practice, and whatever other activities you do. I find that when I’m spending a lot of time on my bike, especially my triathlon bike with its aero bars, Dolphin push-ups help me build the stability in my shoulder girdle and core I need to maintain good form.

Hope you have fun doing this one!

~ 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 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

 

Summer of Core Day 10: Side Plank Hip Dips

Hello and welcome to the 10th day of Summer of Core! Can you believe it?

Today we will build a little bit more on side plank by incorporating hip dips. Like the Hip Dips on straight plank we did on Day 2, this move isolates and works the obliques a little more and the exterior hip muscles.

Let’s Do It

  • Start in your version of side plank (on the knee, staggered/scissored feet, stacked feet).
  • Bring your top hand to your top hip to help you feel where that hip is going.
  • Inhale, lift the side of your top hip toward the sky.
  • Exhale, drop the side of your lower hip toward the ground.
  • Inhale to lift.
  • Repeat three full rounds to start. You can add reps if you need to.
  • Switch sides.

Points on Alignment

  • Bottom hand should be under your lower shoulder, your arm strong, hugging muscle to bone.
  • Keep your back flat, as if up against a wall.
  • Your top shoulder may want to dip toward the ground, try to keep it pulled back, isolating movement in your hips.
  • Kneeling side plank might feel a little awkward for this move. If you prefer that position, try to move slowly with full awareness on your hip alignment. You might also consider extending the bottom leg into a staggered stance for more optimum alignment.

Here’s a video demonstrating the dips with all modifications.

Thanks for staying with this! Let me know how it’s going or if you have any questions.

I’m teaching tomorrow morning and Saturday morning at Soul, and we will practice this week’s moves in class. Check my Schedule for class times.

~ Shoshana

Summer of Core Day 9: Side Plank Flow

Welcome to Day 9!

I hope you’re hanging in there with me. Noticing any changes in your body?

Today, we’re adding a twisting flow to Side Plank by threading the top arm underneath the bottom arm.

This move severely targets the obliques, as well as your balance, your breath and your mental focus.

Thank you Nancy Frey for demonstrating all the options for today’s flow! Nancy teaches at Soul at 9 a.m. on Sundays, and she does private instruction as well.

Options

  • Start with your bottom knee on the ground, directly under your hip. Swing your foot off the mat, pivoting on your knee.
  • Stagger your feet for a little more stability. Keep your legs strong, thighs engaged.
  • Stack your feet so your top foot rests on the bottom foot and you are balancing on the edge of the bottom foot.
  • Extend your top leg. This can be done in any of the lower leg positions. It adds strengthening to the top hip and thigh, as well as an increased challenge for your balance.

Breathe

Let your breath control this flow. Move slowly, working with a complete inhale and a complete exhale to complete one round. The slower you go, the more you’ll be able to feel the crunch of the tuck when you bring your top arm under your bottom arm, and you can use a powerful end to your exhale to get into your diaphragm and intercostals deeper into your frame.

Take five full rounds, using your breath, on each side. Rest in child’s pose.

~ Shoshana