Whenever you design a yoga class to strengthen the core or tone the pelvic floor muscles, it helps to remember the following important points:
- Your core musculature functions as a tightly wrapped package meant to protect the internal organs and move the trunk with ease. It also stabilizes the upper body over the lower body and controls the position of your pelvis. We need to consider all those functions when we design a yoga class for core stability.
- Abdominal crunches are not effective for strengthening the core because they targets only one muscle group.
- Before you can do anything to your core muscles, you need to develop core awareness. There are multiple muscles that have specific roles in how they contribute to core stability. You can spend some time investigating the action of different muscle groups and their relationships with one another. We always aim for balanced muscle development.
- Your abdominal muscles help control the position of your pelvis, which is extremely important for lower back health. When we talk about developing and maintaining a healthy relationship between the pelvis and the spine, there are two main ways to approach it – “the pelvic tilt” and “the corset”. We use those two actions for different purposes.
- The simplest way to develop core strength and support the lower back is to do progressive abdominal contraction (“zip up”) with every exhalation when you practice yoga.
- Holding your abdomen contracted all the time is not a good idea. If your abdomen is a container, then it needs to have a top and a bottom to contain and protect its contents. In your body the bottom of the container is formed by the pelvic floor muscles and the lid is the diaphragm. If you decide to keep your abdomen engaged all the time, you will be continuously pressing your organs against the diaphragm (which will limit its range of movement) and the pelvic floor (which might weaken it). Neither of those are advisable.
- The main purpose of your pelvic floor muscles is to support the structures that sit above it. Just like the furniture in your house sits on the floor, your internal organs sit on your pelvic floor. Your pelvic floor muscles can become either too tight or “droopy”. We use different strategies to either tone the pelvic floor or release tension there, depending on the symptoms.
- Mula bandha might be similar to contracting pelvic floor muscles, but it is usually done for a very different purpose. Traditionally bandhas were considered powerful advanced practices that were done for the purpose of affecting your body’s subtle energy, NOT structural support.
Read more about these points in the posts below.
Sequence Wiz blog posts about core and pelvic floor
Usually when we talk about “the core” we refer to the entirety of your torso between the sternum and the pubic bone. The abdomen is only one small part of it. So when we look at the core structures of your body, there are several things that become obvious. Read more >
Crunches are not the best way to strengthen your core muscles. You already flex your trunk forward all day long when you sit, drive, lean forward or stand with your tailbone tucked under. Repetitive spinal flexion over time can mess up your natural lumbar curve, which repositions your spinal disks in relation to one another, creating compression on the discs in places where they are not supposed to be compressed. There is a better way to strengthen your core. Read more >
To tuck or not to tuck the tailbone under? Sometimes it is appropriate and sometimes it isn’t. What is the difference between “the pelvic tilt” and “the corset”? Read more >
If you keep your abdomen engaged all the time, you will be continuously pressing your organs against the diaphragm (which will limit its range of movement) and the pelvic floor (which might weaken it). Learm more about intra abdominal pressure>
Doing the “zip up” action in back bends protects your lower back, doing it in twists ensures that you twist from the center, instead of using arm leverage, doing it in forward bends takes you deeper into the pose in a safer way, and so on. It’s one of those things that you really shouldn’t go without. Read more >
Your pelvic floor muscles look kind of like a hammock. That hammock can have a healthy muscle tone and perform its functions properly, or it can loose its tone and become either too weak (“droopy hammock”) or too tight (“taut hammock”). Here are things we can do in a yoga practice to prevent and remedy weak pelvic floor muscles.
One of the terms that seem to be thrown around a lot is Mula bandha. You’ll hear a teacher instruct you to “engage your mula bandha” in various poses, while what she really means is “contract your pelvic floor muscles.” Is there a difference? According to Sri Krishnamacharya, there is. READ MORE >
Sample yoga practices
New: 6-Week Yoga Series for Lower Back and Sacrum Stability
Aside from your spine, there are no bony structures between your ribcage and your pelvis to make it possible for your torso to move in many different ways. At the same time, your trunk needs to be able to stabilize the top part of the body (which is heavy) over the bottom part, not just at rest but also during movement.
In this series we focus on developing your core musculature so that it is strong enough to support the weight of the upper body and supple enough to move your body without stressing your lower back.
Featured Core Favorites from the sequence builder
When you use Sequence Wiz yoga sequence builder you can choose a body area and get suggestions on poses that work best to address it. Each option includes poses, reasons for using them and movement instructions. Give it a try >
Take care of the entire body
As yoga teachers, we want to help our students feel better in their bodies. This means that often we need to work with specific areas of tension and imbalance. What does it take to create an effective practice to release tension and increase range of motion in a particular part of the body? Some principles are universal, and some are unique to the target area. Here are some ideas on how you can approach it in your yoga classes, as well as some safety precautions that we need to consider. Check it out >
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