Exercises to strengthen your deep core and pelvic floor as well as improve shoulder and hip stability.
This sequence involves conscious and contra-lateral movements which are a great way to stimulate the right and left side of your brain. You’ll strengthen both your body and your brain.
Our deep core muscles are designed to co-contract prior to movement for better (motor) control so we can move more efficiently. The “thought” of lifting your arm/leg is an effective way to access neural pathways and train your deep core. In this sequence, you’ll start with activating the deepest layers of your core through the breath and the intention to move.
First, take a few minutes to practice diaphragmatic breathing in child’s pose to facilitate core function and release tension. As you breathe in, imagine moving your breath (down, back and wide) into your pelvic floor. Let your exhalation come back to you naturally. Allow each inhalation to evenly expand the core of your body 360 degrees. With each exhalation, allow your body and mind to soften and settle. Then, do cat-cow sequence 5-6x to warm up your spine.
Step 1 Intention to Move
The idea of this exercise is to use your imagination to stimulate your muscles.
- Come to a tabletop position. Place your wrists slightly forward and wider than your shoulders. Place knees beneath hips while gently pressing the top of feet into the floor.
- Establish a neutral spine with your head aligned with your spine. Look between your hands.
- Pause to connect to core breath: Take a deep breath in to evenly expand your entire core. Take a long slow breath out to feel subtle support around the circumference of your core – from the bottom to the top, side to side, and back to front. Keep this deep sense of support.
- Then, bring your attention to where your hands and legs are in contact with the floor. Inhale. Exhale as you imagine simultaneously lifting your right hand and left knee/foot off of the floor, (don’t lift them, only “think” about lifting them) while pressing down through your left hand and right shin. You’ll experience a small degree of shifting within your body, but try to maintain a sense of control through your deep core minimizing movement in your pelvis or spine (hips and back) as best as you can. Hold for 5-10 seconds. Pay attention to how “thinking” about lifting your arm/leg feels in your body. Switch sides. Do the same thing on the left side. Repeat twice more on each side holding 5-10 seconds.
Step 2 Single Opposite Hand/Leg Hover
As you exhale, simultaneously hover (approximately 1/2 inch) your right hand and your left knee and foot off of the floor while pressing down through your left hand and pressing right shin toward the floor. Hold for 5-10 seconds. Switch. Repeat twice more on each side holding 5-10 seconds.
Step 3 Bird Dog
As you exhale, simultaneously hover your right hand and left leg, then slowly extend your right arm forward with your thumb pointing toward the sky and extend your left leg back so they are relatively parallel to the floor. Switch. Repeat on the opposite side. Do 5-6x on each side holding for 5-10 seconds.
Step 4 Double Knee Hover
As you exhale, simultaneously press down through your hands and feet (as if you are pressing the floor away from you) and hover knees (approximately 1 inch) off of the floor. Inhale, lower knees to the floor. Repeat 6-8x.
- take a rest in child’s pose between the exercises as needed
- if you feel pressure in your knees, place a small towel under knees
- If you feel pressure in your shoulders or wrists, try it on forearms
- if you experience pain, back off or come out of the pose
- these exercises aren’t intended to substitute medical treatment. If you experience persistent pain, please seek a qualified health care professional
Keep in mind the goal is to activate your primary core muscles that stabilize and initiate movement while minimizing movement in your hips, back, and shoulders (pelvis, rib cage, and spine). You can expect to feel a small degree of shifting internally; but, make sure you are not moving your hips side to side, arching your back, collapsing into your shoulders, or hyper-extending your elbows. What matters most is that you move from your core without compromising the integrity of your joints, and you move in a pain-free way avoiding unnecessary tension, strain or gripping. Practice step 1 and 2 until you feel and move with a sense of ease and control. Then progress to step 3 and 4.
Here is the thing, anyone can mindlessly go through the motions. Instead, I invite you to move slowly and breathe mindfully sensing how your body responds to small conscious movements. As you explore the sequences, bring your awareness to your whole body. Pay attention to how it feels internally observing the sensations as you transfer your weight from side to side. Moving consciously with your breath allows you to be fully present and engaged while maximizing stability and strength.
Try it! Let us know how it goes!
Wishing you well,
Integrative Coach | Yoga Teacher |Movement Educator
Want to receive class/workshop updates and yoga/movement tips and techniques to help you feel stronger and more confident in your body so you can continue to do the activities you enjoy as you age? Sign up here