My body has been feeling heavy since late last week and I noticed that my Friday trail hiking felt a little more difficult than usual. I like to take my body's lead, so I eased up on my physical activity for a day or two. Today I'm still not feeling quite up to my physical norm, but I noticed that I was wanting to work on strength.
When I find myself dragging, I typically go for core work. I like it because it heats the body, and it corresponds with the 3rd chakra, Manipura. If you're lacking in the motivation department or you're feeling sluggish and heavy, here are some of my favorite yoga core moves:
- Plank -- this is my go-to posture when I want to strengthen my whole body, especially my core. I like to hold plank for 30-60 seconds a few times in a row (with a short rest in between). After I'm done with a few Plank holds, I'm feeling strong and charged and ready for just about anything.
- Side Plank -- when I'm really feeling the need to strengthen my core, I'll hold plank for 30 seconds and then do alternating side planks for 30 seconds. I'll repeat this 3 times with a short rest (or some Cat/Cows) in between. The dynamic movement ensures my core is working, not my back.
- Boat -- this always feels like the standard yoga posture for core strength. The Kundalini equivalent is Stretch Pose. When my lower back is feeling tight or sore, I do a lying pose alternative -- I lie on my back with my knees bent, feet flat on the floor. While keeping my upper body on the floor, I raise my lower body so that my knees are perpendicular to my body and the soles of my feet are facing the wall in front of me (my legs form and L shape). I then raise my arms up straight with the elbows slightly bent, palms flexed (I am sure to keep my lower back flat on the floor). I stay in the position without moving for about 3-5 minutes.
- Warrior 3 -- after years of thinking (pre-yoga) that core strengthening meant sit-ups, it was so nice to come to yoga and realize that I could work my core standing up for a change. I love that this pose works my balance and core strength at the same time.
I always balance my core strengthening with some flexibility so I end with Bridge pose. I like to do dynamic Bridge pose rather than static Bridge pose for this very reason. I worked through these very poses today in a short sequence and felt quite energized and ready to get down to work afterwards.
Another thing I do when my body is not feeling the desire for much movement or high impact movement is step up my pranayama and/or meditation practice. For the past few months, I've been practicing So Darshan Chakra Kriya. I do it first thing in the morning and the belly pumping wakes my whole body up.
If you're looking for some yoga videos with a core focus, I recommend:
- Navel Power
- A Journey through the Chakras -- this DVD series covers the first three chakras and I especially love the practice for the 3rd chakra.
In addition to the energetic benefits working my core affords me, I especially love how stable a strong core makes me. When I'm outside doing yard work, I have no worries about wrenching my back and hurting myself. As this Confucius Yogi (I use that moniker lightly, by the way) likes to say -- a little yoga, many benefits.