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Core strength is essential. Not only does a strong core—the muscles of your midsection, including the abdominals and obliques—help you maintain good posture and support your overall health and vitality, there is power in moving from your physical core center. When you feel strong from within, you can start to lean on and trust your inner wisdom—your body’s inherent intelligence—in all aspects of life. The age-old axiom of “healthy body, healthy mind” has scientific backing that shows physical activity boosts self-esteem in ways direct and indirect.
In other words, when you feel confident in your body and yourself, the way you perceive and show up to situations changes, and as a result, your life changes. And developing core strength can help.
The first time you practice this sequence of yoga poses, remain in each posture for 5–10 breaths. The emphasis is on practicing the poses individually first to discover how you respond and adapt to the strain. Once you feel confident with the poses and the transitions, turn it into a vinyasa practice by linking your movements with your breath. Try moving through it at a pace of 1 breath per movement.
Start with 3 rounds each of Sun Salutation A and Sun Salutation B as a warm-up. Note: Have a yoga block handy.
A sequence for building core strength (and confidence)
To come into Boat Pose, come to a seated position and bend your knees. Lean back slightly to balance on your seat, reach your hands behind your knees, and lift your heels to knee level with your lower legs parallel to the mat. Keep your back straight and your gaze on your feet. Press your inner arches together and spreading your toes. Straighten your arms and spread your fingers. (Or you can keep your hands behind your knees.) Draw your upper arm bones back and broaden across your chest. Engage your low belly and lift your chest.
See also: Boat Pose Made Easy
From Boat Pose, cross your ankles, roll over your feet, and step back to Plank Pose with your feet hip-distance apart and your shoulders over your wrists. Press the base of your fingers into the mat, soften your thoracic spine (upper and middle back), and hug your thumbs toward the center of your mat. Extend your crown forward and reach your heels back. Lengthen your tailbone toward your heels and zip up your low belly. (You can try lifting one leg and hovering it or crossing your ankles.)
From Plank Pose, roll to the left as you stack your heels. Slowly lift your right arm high. Press down into your left hand, broaden across your chest, and reach a little higher. Lift your gaze and spread the fingers of your top hand. Slowly return to Plank and remain here for 5 breaths. Repeat on the other side.
From Plank, press your hips up and back into Downward-Facing Dog Pose. Push the tops of your thighs back as you bring your heels toward the floor. Firm your shoulder blades against your back as you press through the base of your index fingers.
Plank Pose with Knee to Arm
From Downward-Facing Dog, on an inhalation, lift your right leg in Three-Legged Dog. Keep both hip bones squared to the earth and lift from your inner right thigh. On an exhalation, move from core strength and shift your shoulders forward to touch your right knee to your right tricep. Engage your low belly and lift your knee high up toward your armpit. Then on your inhalation, press your right leg up and back to return to a Three-Legged Dog. Lengthen from your right wrist through your right heel. On your exhalation, shift forward and cross your right knee to your left elbow, keeping your navel drawing into your spine and squeezing your obliques. Inhale and lift back to Three-Legged Dog, lifting your right leg high.
From Three-Legged Dog, on an exhalation, use your core strength and to draw your knee forward toward your nose and curl your upper back as you gracefully step your right foot beside your right thumb. Ground down through all four corners of your right foot. With your left foot planted, on your inhalation, lift your arms and chest high. Lengthen your tailbone toward the floor. Root down through your left foot, pulling your left heel toward the back of your mat and engaging your inner thighs. Press through your right heel. Set your gaze, or drishti, straight ahead.
Add a twist by drawing your hands to heart center, inhale, and lift your chest to meet your hands. Exhale and twist, hooking your left arm over your right thigh. Continue to ride your breath, lengthening as you inhale, twisting as you exhale. Press your outer shins in, drawing in from your foundation. Come back through High Lunge as you inhale and step back to Downward-Facing Dog. Switch sides and repeat. starting with Downward-Facing Dog.
From Downward-Facing Dog, walk your feet up toward your hands and come into a squat. Place your hands on the mat, shoulder-width apart or wider, bend your elbows, and keep your seat high as you hug your knees against the back of your arms, close to your armpits. Keep your gaze forward in front of your fingers as you shift your weight forward and start to lift your feet. Press the inner arches of your feet together and awaken your toes to ignite the power line up to your core. Step back to Downward-Facing Dog.
Supta Matsyendrasana (Supine Spinal Twist)
From Downward-Facing Dog, lower your knees to the mat, untuck your toes, and make your way to your back. Lie down and draw your knees into your chest. Extend your arms straight out from your shoulders and lower your knees to the left as you turn your head to gaze over your right shoulder. Inhale and breathe into your side body. Exhale and draw your navel back toward your spine. Slowly come through center and repeat on the other side.