A strong core is necessary for many traditional asanas and will help you avoid injury both on and off the mat. You can start engaging your core in almost every asana by using two important Bandhas (or "locks"):
- Mula Bandha (Root Lock): To use it, lift your pelvic floor up, kind of like doing a Kegel exercise. (In other words, contract and use the muscles that stop you from going to the bathroom.)
- Uddiyana Bandha (Abdominal Lock): To use it, draw your belly button in and up. The action of drawing into the midline of your body creates contraction, stability, heat and core strength.
In addition to engaging these bandhas, practice holding a classic Plank Pose with your shoulders stacked over your wrists and a Dolphin Plank Pose on the forearms with shoulders stacked over your elbows for a timed period. Both variations are great core strengtheners to use toward the beginning of your practice in between Sun Salutations to wake up your abs. Sometimes I also like to add them in before practicing Headstand or Handstand to get my centerline fired up and ready for action. To modify Plank Pose, simply drop your knees to the mat, until you’ve built the strength to hold the position off the ground.
Bethany Lyons is a powerful leader, creator, community builder and cofounder of Lyons Den Power Yoga, Manhattan’s only Baptiste-style yoga studio. Bethany is a classically trained ballet dancer, Certified Baptiste Yoga Teacher and Master Instructor at SoulCycle. In cofounding Lyons Den Power Yoga, Bethany seeks to showcase the endless possibilities all around us and to show up in a big way for her students and in her life.