Developing Core Strength for a Healthy Back

Developing Core Strength for a Healthy Back

As we have probably all been told before, the key to prevent lower back pain (LBP) is to have a strong core… True, lumbar-pelvic stability is indeed crucial to maintain a healthy back. Having strong abdominals helps to keep the spine in place and the pelvis stable. However, some abdominal workouts might actually increase back problems rather than alleviate them. Why? Because many abs exercises tend to be either: Global – in that they engage all the muscles in the core area, including the often over contracted psoas, or Focused exclusively on the rectus abdominis (the six pack muscles). We do need to strengthen these but when they are overworked they tend to pull the ribcage down and create tension in the shoulders. The key is thus to target specific muscles – the transverse abdominis – as concluded by Carolyn A. Richardson (1): “The studies support the argument for LBP exercise treatments to focus on enhancing the stabilization role of the transversus abdominis by precise self-bracing contractions, independently of the other abdominal muscles, rather than general, whole-body exercise programs.” Tightening the Drawstring & Zipping Up So what are these “self-bracing contractions”? Doug Keller recommends a very simple and efficient way to practice these self-bracing contractions with the “Tightening the Drawstring” and “Zipping Up” actions. In order to tighten the drawstring, lie flat on your back and imagine that you want to lift your legs. But you don’t actually do it. Can you feel the action across your lower abdomen? As if you were tightening a drawstring. ​Next, still lying on your back, imagine that you want to put on a very tight pair...
Healthy Back: Stretching, Releasing & Toning the Psoas

Healthy Back: Stretching, Releasing & Toning the Psoas

According to the World Health Organisation, 60 to 70% of adults in industrialised countries will suffer from lower back pain during their lifetime. It is one of the major causes of disability and lost days at work. Lower back pain can be due to various reasons, from a slipped disc to scoliosis or vertebral fractures. But very often, tension in the lower back is linked to our lifestyle: we basically spend too many hours sitting and this is not good news for our psoas! The psoas: A key muscle The psoas is really a vital muscle which links the upper body and the lower body. It attaches along the spine at one end, in the lumbar area, and at the inside of the thighs at the other end. It is involved in a variety of movements and actions such as balancing the core, connecting with the diaphragm or stimulating the internal organs and nerves – but it is mainly a hip flexor that draws the thigh towards the upper body. The psoas and lifestyle Although we might not notice it, the psoas is contracted when we sit. In other words, if we sit for long hours every day, the psoas is constantly contracted. What happens then? It tightens, shortens and pulls on the lumbar spine, sometimes even twisting it. This not only puts pressure on the discs but also on the surrounded muscles. Hence the sensation of tension and compression in the lower back! What should we do? Since a tight psoas is a problem, we should stretch the psoas. However, we also want to tone the psoas. Why? Because a weak psoas muscle also...
Why you should include “core” work in your practice

Why you should include “core” work in your practice

It is indeed important to see the core as a group of muscles including the Transverse Abdominals but also the Obliques, the Multifidus and the Pelvic Floor Muscles. Why are these muscles important? First because they protect the lower back by stabilising it and help keep a good posture. Second because they help massage the internal organs, improving digestion and elimination. Third, because strong core muscles will help you in about all the yoga asanas. Whether standing, balancing poses or twists, they all require strong core muscles and stability. Fourth, core strength is magical. It makes everything easier: sitting, lifting, standing, bending, playing tennis, reaching overhead… you name it. Personally, it makes me feel stronger, not just physically but mentally too. How to strengthen the core? Students often believe that the only core strengthening yoga pose is Navasana/ the Boat pose but there are many many more. And not just asanas! Practising Kaphalabati breath everyday for a few minutes will undoubtedly strengthen your core! Pelvic tilts too, Balancing Table, Lower Planks… There are core strengthening practises for every mood, every level! Hmm I guess a short Core Strengthening Video is required. Coming...