Monday, February 27, 2012

Restoring and Rebuilding your Inner Core Part V - Incorporating the Helper Muscles

In the first 4 posts on Restoring and Rebuilding the Inner Core, we covered the "Core 4":  Mula Bandha, Uddiyana Bandha, the respiratory diaphragm, and the Multifidi.  In the last post we expanded on Lesson III and learned to find length and strength in the deep muscles of the back.

Today, we will begin to add on to the "Core 4" by isolating our "helper" muscles. In this case, the adductors (inner thigh muscles).

Exercise 5: Building Strength and Stability in the Adductors

Setting up:
Start by laying on your back on the floor with your knees bent (See Lesson I for a picture). Find a neutral pelvis - hip points and top of pubic bone are on the same plane. Do a couple of pelvic tilts and tucks to find neutral. When your pelvis is in a neutral alignment you should have a slight curve in your lumbar spine, just as you would when standing.

Find a regular, steady breath and practice a few rounds of inner core engagement in conjunction with the breath (Exercise 1).

Working in the pose:
After establishing your breath and your inner core engagement, I want you to find your hip flexors. These are the muscles that fire when you lift a leg. Put your fingertips at the hip crease and take a few "marches" to find these muscles. Now that you have found them, I want you to not use them.

Now, take a block and place it between your inner thighs so that your knees and hips are in alignment. See right. (This block is a tiny bit thin for my body.)

Keep your fingertips at your hip creases (to monitor your hip flexors and make sure there is no movement there) and begin to gently squeeze the block between the thighs.

Take about 10 rounds of adductor engagement and release and then take a break. Remove the block and hug your legs to your chest.

Adding load to the pose:
To add on to the pose, we will set our selves up the same way: lay in constructive pose and place a block between the inner thighs. Find Mula Bandha and Uddiyana Bandha and maintain a neutral pelvis: hip points equidistant from your lower ribs, lumbar slightly curved - not over tilted and not smooshed to the floor.

From here, squeeze the block gently and lift your bum up in the air, coming into Bridge Pose. Maintain the adductor engagement as you hold Bridge. You can also try lifting and lowering in a flowing pattern. Work here until you feel slightly fatigued. Keep your jaw soft, shoulders soft, and maintain an easy, smooth breath.

To come out of the pose, slowly lower to the floor with a neutral spine. Remove the block and take a minute to lay flat to let the spine settle. Help ease your transition by slowly tick-tocking your knees side to side. Finally, take any finishing movements that you like: reclining bound angle, a long stretch, a bundle roll hug, gentle twist, etc.

Homework for Restoring the Core: 
(click lesson links below to review)
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.
4) Strengthening the spine through dips and lifts from Bridge Pose.
5) Strengthening the inner thighs by taking Bridge Pose with a block.

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.
Lesson III: Restoring and Rebuilding your Inner Core Part III - Finding the Deep Muscles of the Spine.
Lesson IV: Restoring and Rebuilding your Inner Core Part IV - Stretching and Strengthening the Deep Muscles of the Spine.