How to build core strength for back care

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By Joanne Bredin, Yoga teacher & core strength specialist at Durga. 

It was an ordinary morning and I felt full of energy, sitting on the edge of my bed tying my shoe laces. I finished the task and proceeded to stand. But as I stood up, I felt a severe pain in my lower back.

Learning to recover from back injury with yoga

I returned to sitting with difficulty and wondered what had taken place in my body. After a while I managed to move around and walked to work much slower and mindful of every movement, but the pain never relieved.

As the day progressed the nauseating pain was accentuated with certain movements and I began to ponder how people with long-term pain really suffer. I could not complain as I was only in pain for one day.

I visited my physiotherapist that evening and there was very little work that could proceed until the muscles had relaxed with the aid of heat treatments. After a number of further visits to her and a lot of rest, my back did recover.

The physiotherapist recommended that I start core strengthening training to aid recovery and prevent a relapse. A number of high-impact situations in my history had affected my stomach muscle strength and my back muscles – two cesarean sections in three years and a car accident ten years prior.

Since then, poor stomach and back muscle tone had presented me with high pressure on my lower back muscles.

I already practiced yoga once a week, but in order to build strength in my core, I needed to practice more regularly.

Setting a regular routine to build core strength

Once my back was recovered, I began a two-part back health programme. First I started taking four long walks a week and second I set-up a one-hour yoga routine, which I practiced five days week.

Within a few weeks I could feel a difference in my body and my energy levels.  As my posture improved, the energy flow through my body was not restricted and my general daily outlook on life was brighter with the free flow of energy.

My yoga practice improved hugely, as the strength in my core enabled my practice to contain ‘effortless effort’.  My core strength routine is the backbone, excuse the pun, of my yoga practice for many years now, and it will remain that way.

I firmly believe that ‘behind every cloud there IS a silver lining’.  A sudden pain in my back had given me a wake-up call.  I could continue as I was with the high possibility of sudden back pain returning at any moment, or make a change and strive to improve my health with the tools developed in India thousands of years ago – YOGA.

What is the core?

The core of the body is the central link between the arms and the legs.  A strong core enables the arms and legs to activate and support only what is naturally required of them, so there is no ‘undue’ pressure placed on the arms, legs, shoulders and hips.

Tone and strengthen your core muscles and you will not only see a huge improvement in your yoga practice, but also an improvement in your health.

My favourite five yoga poses for core strength:

  1. Cat / Cow pose (Marjaryasana/ Bitilasana) gently warms the core muscles
  2. Chair Pose (Utkatasana)
  3. High Plank
  4. Boat Pose (Navasana) modified with hands placed on the floor behind the hips.
  5. Locust Pose (Salabhasana) variation. Lifting the right arm and left leg as you inhale, exhale lower them to the floor. Lift the left arm and right leg as you inhale, exhale lower them to the floor. Continue to lift with the breath.

Afterwards, ease out the back with Happy Baby Pose.

If you would like to tone your core muscles, join me for Core Strength Yoga in Durga Yoga and Antenatal every Monday at 8:15pm.  Click here to book a class »