More About Core – 5 Tips For a Top Tum
The human core consists of multiple layers of muscles which allow the torso to bend forward, twist and stretch to the side. The deepest layer of abdominal muscle is known as Transverse Abdominus, often referred to as the ‘corset’ muscle. It wraps around your body horizontally from back to front, stabilising the spine when you move. Transverse Abdominus, or T.A., is the muscle that flattens your tummy.
The instruction, ‘navel to spine’ given in yoga classes, encourages you to activate T.A., thereby stabilising your spine and protecting you from injury. Moving without the support of this muscle is like throwing your phone across the room without the protective case on. It might be fine or it might get damaged.
Switch your inner ‘casing’ on and follow these tips to keep your inner core trim, toned and fit for purpose:
1. Breathe your belly strong: activate T.A. by developing the habit of performing strenuous movements on an out-breath when the navel naturally moves back to the spine, thus providing essential stability. This goes for day-to-day movements as well as yoga. Breathe out slowly and consciously through the nose as you move your tummy back toward your spine.
2. Inhale and relax: it is also really important to learn how to relax your belly muscles. Inhaling provides a natural opportunity for this as we let the belly relax and expand on the in-breath. A strong and responsive core requires the abdominal muscles to work in a tandem with the respiratory diaphragm. This simply means allowing the belly to relax and expand on the in-breath and contract gently back on the out-breath.
3. Sit up, stand up! Incorrect posture, over time, leads to weakening of the abdominal muscles. Get into the habit of sitting upright and make sure your work station is set up correctly to support you in this – head in line with spine, feet flat on the floor, eyes level with the screen, low back support if necessary. Take frequent breaks to stand and walk about, thereby relieving tension in muscles.
4. Beat the bloat: the shape and effective functioning of your core is affected by your digestive health. Digestive symptoms such as bloating and wind can be caused by foods you are not digesting well. For example, excessive sugar, dairy and gluten can trigger tummy troubles so you might benefit from reducing or eliminating them from your diet for a while. What’s more, if you are experiencing this kind of tummy discomfort, you are less likely to engage T.A. effectively.
5. Stress is OK if you’re OK with stress: we can’t avoid it, yet studies show that stress hormones lead to weight gain around the midriff, just what you don’t want to hear. However a recent study also found that people who view stress in a positive way, don’t suffer the effects of stress. In fact, it has a positive impact on their health.
6. Your attitude is all-important. Try to accept stress as a natural part of life. View it as a way to develop inner strength as you rise to the challenges in your life and transcend your previous capacities. The yoga skills of concentration, conscious relaxation and breath awareness will help you to survive and even thrive through stress.
Join me this Saturday 16th of July for my Core & Restore workshop where we will practice intelligent core work, learning to strengthen the inner and outer core muscles in tandem with the breath. In the latter half of the workshop, we will experience the deep release of restorative yoga poses which help us to let go of the gripping sensations we experience in the belly as a result of stress. Restorative yoga triggers the relaxation response, soothing the nervous system and allowing us to rest deeply.