Monday, January 16, 2012

Restoring and Rebuilding your Inner Core Part III - Finding the Deep Muscles of the Spine

Deep muscles of the back.
(Multifidus shaded in red.)
Image from Wikipedia
In the previous two lessons on Restoring and Rebuilding the Inner Core, I have focused on Mula Bandha and Uddiyana Bandha. I also talked a little bit in the first lesson about the respiratory diaphragm. These are three of the main "Core 4" of the Inner Core. The fourth main component of the inner core is the Multifidus - the deep muscles of the spine which work to stabilize the joints at each segmental level. So how do we work this part of our inner core?

Exercise 3: Finding the Deep Muscles of the Spine through Arch and Flatten

Setting up:
Start by laying on your back on the floor with your knees bent (Constructive Pose) and find a smooth, deep, and steady breath. Notice the rise and fall of the belly. Notice any other areas in your body that move with the breath.

Working in the pose:
After establishing your breath, begin to exaggerate the movement of the belly and the spine. On your inhale, relax everything and let the belly rise. On your exhale, draw the pelvic floor muscles up toward the area behind your belly button and pull your lower belly backward toward the spine. Let your spine press into the floor as your tail curls up slightly. On the inhale soften the pelvic floor and the lower belly muscles and begin to engage the muscles of the lower back by purposely pressing the sacrum into the floor and exaggerating the curve of the lumbar.

Take 5-10 rounds of this purposeful arching and flattening (tiny bit of a tail curl), practicing a muscular hand-off from the front line of the body to the back line of the body. Notice if other parts of the body want to get into the act. Do you find your arms wanting to roll in on the exhale? Do your knees want to press together on the exhale and open like a flower on the inhale? Do your arms also want to flower open on the inhale? If any of these movements are happening, go with it.

When you feel you have made a good connection with the deep muscles of your spine let yourself soften and return to your smooth, deep, and steady breath. Take any finishing movements that you like: a long stretch, a bundle roll hug, gentle twist, etc.

1) Pelvic floor lifts: 10 each, 5 times a day from any position: sitting, standing or laying down.
2) Heel lifts or toe taps: 5-10 on each side making sure to keep the pelvis stable and neutral and maintain an easy breath.
3) Spine awareness through exaggerated arch and curl.

Lesson I: Restoring and Rebuilding your Inner Core Part I - Finding Mula Bandha
Lesson II: Restoring and Rebuilding your Inner Core Part II - Strengthening Uddiyana Bandha.

Up next: More exercises to improve your core.