Basic Practice: Widening and Strengthening the Abdomen

So often we erroneously equate strengthening the core with squeezing the abdominal muscles and pelvic floor as much as possible. I grant that, in certain poses, it is important to properly engage the abdominals to support the strength of the hip flexors and torso, but indiscriminately gripping them can have negative effects in the long run: tightening in the hips and chest, and even consequences to the effective functioning of the internal organs. Better to have a strong and supple abdominal wall that can engage and support when needed, but also release and lengthen when appropriate.

In this practice, consider the following actions:
  • Keep both the upper and lower abdomen soft and wide at all times. I use the word “soft” to suggest toned and responsive, not flabby and unused or squeezed and gripped.
  • Keep the hip creases soft, wide and well-defined in your awareness in all the poses.
  • Find length in the torso by remaining elongated from the hips to the head to keep the sides of the waist long and engaged.
  • Increase the strength of the core by engaging the inner thighs to support the legs and hip flexors.
  • In the more obviously abdominal poses, draw the pubic bone up towards the navel and the navel in towards the spine, keeping the sides of the waist cinched and long.

The Sequence:

Adho Mukha Sukhasana (Downward Facing Comfortable Pose)

Child’s Pose

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Lunge with the back leg up

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Hands Pose) with the back against the wall

Half Utkatasana (Furious Pose) with the back against the wall
• Keep the torso upright and the back against the wall as you raise the arms and bend the legs.

Utkatasana (Furious Pose)
• Come into Half Utkatasana with the hands on the hips, keeping the torso upright, only bending the legs a little.
• Fold forward from the hips without pushing the lower back and chest forward or tucking the tailbone under.
• Reach the arms up.
• Then sink down into the full pose.

Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior Pose 2)

Utthita Parshvakonasana (Extended Side Angle Pose)

Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose)

Utkatasana (Furious Pose)
• Come into the pose as above.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Supta Padangusthasana 2 (Reclined Big Toe Pose 2)

Urdhva Prasarita Padasana (Upward Extended Feet Pose)
• 2 repetitions.

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)
• Upright seated version only.

Paripurna Navasana (Full Boat Pose)

Adho Mukha Sukhasana (Downward Facing Comfortable Pose)

Ardha Navasana (Half Boat Pose)

Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog Pose)

Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose) over a bolster with breath awareness

Viparita Karani (Upside Down Pose) with breath awareness

Shavasana (Corpse Pose)


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