Take a look at our friend above in it’s perfect posture and notice how you are sitting or standing at this moment. Are your shoulders rounded and you chest caved in? Or perhaps your shoulders are rolled back but to the point that your chest is puffed out- Either of these postures are deviations from a neutral spine* and are compensations for a weak core. “But wait,” you may protest, “I do crunches everyday and pride myself on my strong abs!” This may be true but I would like you to look inside for a moment…..deep, deep deep down inside at your inner most core and meet my friend Udyana Bandha.
The translation for Udyana Bandha is “flying upward” and is named such as it is an energetic lock that assists in the feeling of lightness needed when doing things like arm balances, inversions and acrobatics.
The lightness you feel is due to your core muscles hugging into the mid line of the body rather than expanding out.
Try it at home:
1.Firm your abdominal muscles by baring down as if getting ready for a punch straight to the gut. Notice how your belly bulges out as it works to put as much padding in between you and the external fist that is quick approaching. This is your Rectus Abdominal muscles engaging (the most superficial of the abdominal muscles, commonly referred to as the “6 pack” even though it’s more like a 10 pack but that’s an article for another time)
2. Now cough, cough like they did back in the days of Tuberculosis. Feel how your core snapped back in towards your body and lifted slightly up towards the chest- almost as if it were flying upward in fact? This is because the Transverse Abdominis muscle is the deepest of the abdominals and works to stabilize your spine, pelvis and protect your viscera. When you engage your pelvic floor muscles* and pull your navel in and up you are supporting yourself from the inside out instead of vice versa
To go deeper stand with your feet hips distance or wider, bend at the knees and round through your back. take a deep inhale and forcefully exhale ALL the breath- every last sip- from the mouth. push your hands into the thighs to traction the torso as you pull your navel in and up, compressing the viscera and eccentrically contracting the Transverse Abdominis and mimicking the picture below.
The argument can be made that the more you train your transverse abdominals, the more you are ensuring the lasting health or your back and pelvis as well as creating length in the core body (promoting greater length in the trunk by stabilizing the spine) and thus decompressing the visceral organs. My, my that is certainly worth trying!
By the power of Greyskull- you have the power!
here are a few links to some great ways to access your inner most, upward flying core body. Try these exercises 5 days to everyday for 2 weeks (don’t go Cray Cray, just 10 good, quality reps once per day) by the end of your 2 weeks I bet the farm that you’ll feel a difference and see a difference.
Starting on your back with knees bent and all toes facing forward, place either a ball or rolled up yoga mat or towel in between knees and squeeze the prop by engaging the inner thigh muscles and inverting the pelvic floor* (or a Kegel). Stretch your arms along side you pressing the palms and triceps into the mat and draw your navel in towards the spine and slightly up towards the head as you squeeze your prop and lift your knees above your hips and pulse squeezing the ball in between your knees.
Hold for several breaths noting how much your lower abs need to pull in and corset to keep the body stable. If it becomes too much on your low back you can lift your head and shoulders like the above picture.
With your hands by your side, palms face down or above head with the core engaged so that the ribs don’t splay out, squeeze your ball, and take your knees over to the right. Make sure that your left knee is parallel your right by engaging the left oblique muscles and carving the left ribcage into the body. Exhale and slowly, smoothly bring your knees back over your hips and repeat on the left side.
Bringing your hands back by your sides, press the triceps and palms into the mat as you engage your pelvic floor, lengthen your tail bone towards the front of your mat and, squeezing your prop, sequentially peel your spine off the mat trying to isolate every vertebra as you go. To lower down scoop the belly and imagine you are squeezing the last of the toothpaste from the bottom of the tube as you roll down slow and controlled flattening the tummy towards the spine.