Monday, March 12, 2012

Restoring and Rebuilding your Inner Core Part VI - 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 learned to isolate our adductors (inner thigh muscles). And in this post we will learn to isolate the abductors (outer thigh muscles).

Exercise 6: Building Strength and Stability in the Abductors

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 yoga belt, create a loop, and fasten the belt around your mid to upper thighs.

Keep your fingertips at your hip creases (to monitor your hip flexors and make sure there is no movement there) and begin to gently press the thighs into the belt without activating the hip flexors. Think of the movement as originating from your hip sockets vs. originating from your knees.

Take about 10 rounds of abductor engagement and release, and then take a break.

Adding load to the pose:
To add on to the pose, we will set our selves up the same way: lay in constructive pose with the belt snug around the outer 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, press the legs gently into the belt and lift your bum up in the air, coming into Bridge Pose. Maintain the abductor 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 belt 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: windshield-wiper knees, 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.
6) Strengthening the outer thighs by taking Bridge Pose with a belt.

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