To complement the MASSAGE Magazine article, “Core Strength to the Rescue,” , in the June 2012 issue. Article summary: For massage therapists, a typical workday includes standing over clients and using bodily force to provide therapeutic touch. Working over, on or around clients can put great pressure on one’s core and back muscles—and weakness in these areas can create tension, muscular imbalance and potential for injury.
To be able to develop any muscle, you have to engage it. We build a strong core with focused exercises targeting the entire core region: glutes, abs, obliques, intercostals and stratus muscles. The majority of core muscles consists of deep-tissue muscles and requires stabilizing balance control to become engaged.
A strong core takes intentional practice to build. Exercises plus visualization are the key to success.
We have the opportunity to create and enhance core stability with every YogaFit pose we do. Yoga is a great way to build core strength. This is the foundation of our yoga practice along with deep breathing and clearing the mind. Using a small compressible rubber YogaButt ™ ball placed between the legs in specific yoga postures, core center muscles are isolated and strengthened.
Boat: From a seated position, lift your legs [beginners: grasp the backs of your thighs]. Keep your midsection strong as you extend your legs straight out. With the ball between your legs, keep pressing legs together as you lift your rib cage.
Camel: Kneeling, place the ball between your legs and bring your hands back to rest on the top of your heels. Lift your chest toward the sky as you contract the glutes and press hips forward. Let head drop back but be sure to keep from hyper-extending the cervical spine.
Chair: Stand with your feet hip distance apart or slightly closer. Place the ball 3 inches above your knees and sit back into chair pose, extending the arms out from the shoulders. Keep your glutes contracted and your abs firm as you hold for 10 deep breaths. Repeat several times.
Cat: Come to all fours, with knees under hips and arms beneath shoulders. Place the ball between your inner thighs and keep your back straight and head facing forward. Exhale and let your head and tailbone drop as you arch your back and pull navel up to spine. Inhale and raise heel and tailbone, curve your back and look up. Alternate several times.
Plank: From down dog, drop your knees to the floor. Hold upper body in a push-up position with knees on or off the floor. Hands should be slightly closer than shoulder width. Keep the ball between your legs as you engage all muscles.
Crocodile: From a plank position, place the ball between your thighs and slowly lower body down to about 1 inch off the floor [drop knees if necessary]. Press through the triceps as you keep glutes lifting and abdominal muscles strong.
Cobra: From crocodile, lower entire body down to about 1 inch from floor, keeping ball between thighs. Pressing your hands into the floor, slowly draw chest up toward sky. Keep glutes tight to protect lower back.
Beth Shaw, E-R.Y.T., C.M.T., is a licensed massage therapist as well as president and founder of YogaFit®, the leader in mind-body fitness education. Shaw is an internationally known yoga expert and author of Beth Shaw’s YogaFit (Human Kinetics 2009). She is the innovative educator, entrepreneur and visionary for YogaFit®, YogaButt, YogaStrength, YogaCore, YogaLean and countless other yoga-fitness combinations. She has more than 30 DVDs and CDs on the market and is widely recognized as the premier yoga fitness trainer in the industry. Shaw has been showcased in various print and television programs, such as CNBC, CNN, NBC, CBS, E! Style Channel, O, The Oprah Magazine, TIME, More, Entrepreneur and Yoga Journal. For more information, visit www.yogafit.com.