“You are only as young as your spine is flexible.”— Joseph Pilates
A strong core and a healthy spine go hand in hand. Visualize the muscles of your core, which include your abdominals, back, and glutes, as a natural girdle supporting your spine. Keeping these muscles strong and supple will protect your spine, improve your posture, maintain and improve alignment, and help you avoid lower back pain.
Whether you’re taking a yoga class specifically designed to focus on core/spine health or a core/Pilates class, you’ll garner these benefits. Back pain is often the result of weak abdominals, tight hip flexors, and inflexible hamstrings. It’s vital to ensure all three of these elements are addressed to keep your core and spine in optimal health.
When you work on your center, you aren’t just getting toned muscles, you’re also creating a support system for your spine. Navasana (Boat Pose) and Phalakasana (Plank Pose) are two of yoga’s best core strengtheners and can be incorporated into any practice. Classes that are fitness-based, like HIIT, Pilates, Core, and Sculpt, generally include dedicated core work.
Another set of muscles that directly impact the health of your core are the hip flexors or psoas muscles. These large muscles are the only ones in your body that start in the front of the body and finish in the back. Asanas like Virabhadrasana I (Warrior 1) emphasize stretching the entire front of the hip and thigh. Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose) opens the entire front side of the body and strengthens the back too.
In addition to working on your center, it’s essential to work on flexibility, and specifically the hamstrings. Many yoga practices help open the hamstrings, which when overly tight can put pressure on the lower back and cause or exacerbate lumbar pain. Asanas (postures) like Adho Mukha Svnasana (Downward Facing Dog) and Paschimottanasa (Seated Forward Fold) both emphasize stretching the posterior chain of muscles, including the hamstrings and the entire back. Keeping these muscles supple plays a key role in keeping your spine strong.
Taking the time to focus specifically on strengthening and lengthening your center will keep your spine as healthy as possible. Try this week’s classes and see how great you feel!
Strong Core-Supple Spine - Claire Petretti Marti
Midline Method Spine Opening - Ali Duncan
Mad About Core 2 - Jessica Oldfield
Core Strength the Iyengar Way - Dana Hanizeski
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