Want to Strengthen Your Core? Start with Your Breath

By: 
Tracy Weber, E-RYT 500, C-IAYT

Most people think of crunches or even Navasana (Boat Pose) as the Holy Grail of yoga core strengtheners. But what if you could strengthen your abdominal muscles simply by breathing?

You can!

Here's How

This simple exercise strengthens the girdling muscles that stabilize the lower back and pelvis. You can do this movement with every breath in your yoga practice, but I like to teach it lying on the floor, where you can more easily feel the motion of the spine and you are less likely to be distracted by other movements. Give it a try for five minutes each day. Your abs may even talk to you the next day!

  1. Lie on the floor, with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Notice how this position flattens your lower back curve.

  2. Place your palms on your belly.

  3. As you inhale, allow your belly to soften.

  4. As you exhale, imagine that you are closing the zipper on a too-tight pair of jeans. Pull in your belly starting at the bottom (the pubic bone) and contract upward toward the bottom of your ribs. You might feel your belly hollow out and your lower back press toward the floor.

  5. On the following inhalation, imagine that you are breathing in from your collarbones down. Keep your belly pulled in strongly for the first half of the inhalation, and then slowly allow it to relax in the second half.

  6. With each following exhalation, close the zipper again.

 Hints:

  • On a scale of one to ten, make the abdominal contraction on the exhalation about a six—strong enough to feel the muscles, but not so strong that you feel breathless or tired.

  • Relax the rest of your body. In particular, notice any tension that builds in your neck, shoulders, jaw, and arms, and consciously release it.

  • Once doing the exercise becomes habitual when lying on your back, try it seated crossed-legged on the floor or in a chair.

  • Once doing the exercise becomes habitual while lying or sitting still, integrate it into every breath of your asana practice.

Want to learn more about breathing? - Read one of YogaUOnline's most popular posts - Dr. Ray Long on Deep Breathing: How the Diaphragm Works.

Study with YogaUOnline and Robin Rothenberg - The Healing Power of Breath: Essential Techniques for Healthy Living.

Reprinted with permission from Whole Life Yoga.

Tracy Weber, E-RYT 500, C-IAYT is the owner of Whole Life Yoga in Seattle as well as the creator and director of Whole Life Yoga’s teacher training program. A practicing yoga therapist, she is also the author of the Downward Dog Mystery series, which won the Maxwell award for fiction. She loves sharing her passion for yoga and animals in any way possible.

Tracy and her husband Marc live in Seattle with their crazy new German shepherd pup, Ana. When she’s not writing, Tracy spends her time teaching yoga, trying to corral Ana, and sipping Blackthorn cider at her favorite ale house. 

For more information on Tracy and the Downward Dog Mysteries, visit her author website: http://TracyWeberAuthor.com/.