Most people think of crunches or even Navasana (Boat Pose) as the holy grail of yoga core strengtheners. But what if you could strengthen your abdominal muscles simply by breathing?
This simple exercise strengthens the girdling muscles that stabilize the lower back and pelvis. You can do the motion with every breath in your yoga practice, but I like to teach it lying on the floor, where you can more easily feel the motion of the spine and you aren’t distracted by other movements. Give it a try for 5 minutes each day. You’ll notice the difference. Your abs may even talk to you the next day!
- Lie on the floor, with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Notice how this position flattens your lower back curve.
- Place your palms on your belly.
- As you inhale, allow your belly to soften.
- As you exhale, imagine that you are closing the zipper on a too-tight pair of jeans. Pull in your belly starting at the bottom (the pubic bone) and contract upward toward the bottom of your ribs. You might feel your belly hollow out and your lower back press toward the floor.
- On the following inhale, imagine that you are breathing in from your collar bones down. Keep your belly pulled in strongly for the first half of the inhale, and then slowly allow it to relax in the second half.
- With each following exhale, close the zipper again.
- On a scale of 1 – 10, make the abdominal contraction on exhale about a 6. Strong enough to feel the muscles, not so strong that you feel breathless or tired.
- Relax the rest of your body. In particular, notice any tension that builds in your neck, shoulders, jaw, and arms, and consciously release it.
- Once doing the exercise becomes habitual when lying on your back, try it seated crossed-legged on the floor or in a chair.
- Once doing the exercise becomes habitual without movement, integrate it into every breath of your asana practice.
Enjoy, and happy practicing!
Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series. A KILLER RETREAT is available for preorder now from Whole Life Yoga. MURDER STRIKES A POSE is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and book sellers everywhere!