Yoga for Core Strength
Agnieszka Olechowska, Yoga Teacher at YOU Massage Therapy, Southampton, describes how Yoga is not just for flexibility and relaxation
Some people associate yoga exercises with muscle flexibility rather than strength. Students coming to my classes often ask how long it’s going to take for them to perform splits or back bends. Flexibility is, to some people, the main goal with their Asana practice. However, although muscle stretching to aid and improve flexibility plays an important role in a typical yoga class, we shouldn’t forget about simultaneously developing our strength.
Strong muscles play an important part in supporting the joints and protecting them from damage. The weaker our muscles are, the less stable our joints become. Prolonged imbalance can lead to chronic pain and this in turn makes us involuntarily take it easy on the muscles by unconsciously avoiding movements that cause discomfort or pain. The muscles can then become progressively weaker and a vicious circle arises.
Some people may associate strength with gym bodies with their chiseled abs and generally well-developed musculature. This is another popular misconception: Simply having carved muscles doesn’t necessarily make us strong and functional humans. Yoga practice itself won’t turn our abs into a dreamed-of six-pack, but it offers much more than just boosting appearance. Practiced regularly, it helps to develop core muscle stability which positively impacts our physical health.
What is the core and why is core strength and stability so important?
The core is a complex series of muscles around the trunk and pelvis, located under the superficial musculature people often concentrate on training. The core muscles are designed to transfer the force between the lower and upper body and to stabilize movement. These deeper muscles include:
- Transverse abdominis – the deepest muscle of the abdomen whose function is to stabilize the lumbar spine.
- Pelvic floor muscles which provide support to the organs laying on it and controlling the release of bladder and bowel. The pelvic floor muscles also work with the abdominal and back muscles to support the vertebral column.
- Multifidis – these are very small muscles but provide significant support for the joints within the spine
- Diaphragm – the most important muscle controlling the breathing process but is also important for stabilising the spine during body movement.
This shows how prominent an impact core muscles have on the spine; core stability plays an important role in keeping the vertebral column supported and healthy. A strong core is important, not only to help protect us from sports injuries but also from injuries from performing simple everyday activities such as lifting objects overhead, bending to tie shoelaces, doing the housework and even sitting at a desk.
Test your own core strength and stability
One simple test is to adopt the forearm plank position and measure the time you can hold the position for. If you are able to perform this exercise for 60-90 seconds, maintaining proper body alignment, you can assume your core muscles are in good condition. Otherwise, they will benefit from some attention and improvement.
Yoga can help you to develop core strength and stability in an enjoyable and safe manner. Vinyasa Yoga classes in YOU Massage Therapy are created for those with mixed abilities and are always adjusted to the individual’s needs. As well as helping to build your core strength, they will help improve your flexibility and help you to unwind and relax.
Find out more about Aga’s Yoga Classes at YOU Massage, Southampton.
Aga’s yoga classes run on Wednesday evenings at YOU Massage, Bedford Place, Southampton
Tick a box in the form to register for attendance at our class open day, Sunday 29th October
Find out more about the history of yoga.
Written by Agnieszka Olechowska, Yoga teacher at YOU Massage Therapy
Edited by YOU Massage Therapy