This 5-post series is dedicated to my friend K.T., the beautiful and talented mother of Lauren, Danny and Elizabeth; a Grandma-in-High-Demand.
Besides grandparents and parents, who are the other weight lifters?
Our Zumba teacher leads us through a10 minute upper-body toning sequence using hand weights toward the end of each super-fun class. (I love my Zumba teacher! Shout out to Jackie Lewis!) But I noticed that my neck was getting really tense during the weight lifting. So I used some of the things I've learned from yoga about "working from the core" and my neck relaxed and I felt stronger all over.
We're all weight lifters. We're all always lifting and/or moving objects. Yoga is mindful movement. What better way to cultivate mindfulness than to continually return to your core and notice if it's engaged or completely offline?
It's as if you deliberately come down to earth and get conscious about being here, now. Not two steps away from here, not a split second away from now, but exactly where and how you are. That in itself is strengthening and empowering. Then, when you feel your feet pressing down and your leg muscles wrapping around the bones (as in tadasana, mountain pose), you notice the spine lengthening and ascending while the shoulders relax and the head sits balanced just right atop. A perfect stance for facing the day. The best place from which to begin moving the limbs. Especially if you add in the next three yogic pelvic girdle stabilizer/strengtheners. Read on, strong friend!
Try the following, perhaps weaving them into your daily practice or doing each separately:
#1 - Inner thighs. Lie on your back with knees bent and feet on the floor and place a yoga block (or equivalent, such as a rolled-up towel or sturdy cushion) in between the upper thighs. Press feet into the floor and squeeze the block while exhaling; inhale, soften. Repeat a few more times.
#2 - Transversus abdominus - the muscles in-between the frontal hip bones. Access these by doing exercise #1 while simultaneously lifting the hips just an inch or two off the floor. Place the heels of your hands on the frontal hip bones, fingers pointing toward the midline of your body, just above the pubic bone, and gently and firmly try to draw the hip bones toward each other. Can you feel the muscles engage? See what happens if you add in the root lock as well by first engaging the muscles of the perineum. Take your time. Consciously engage each area: root lock, inner thighs, frontal hip bones. Move in and out of this a few more times with your breath. Exhale - engage, inhale - release.
#3 - Lower abs - lower segment of rectus abdominus. Do #1 and #2 and then, holding that mini-bridge, bring the pubic bone toward the bellybutton. You can ramp it up and get even stronger if you use your hands again to gently and firmly press the upper thighs away from you.
This seems like a lot, but if you practice each exercise in isolation, your muscles will get the idea. When you do this work, engage on the exhalation and soften or release as you inhale. Go slowly and be kind to yourself. Given the area we're working with, you may discover places that have been neglected, weakened or injured somehow. Maybe there's been trauma here, or surgery and scars. Stay with yourself and your breathing. Take breaks. Be kind. And don't overdo it. Maybe three repetitions per exercise at first. Make sure to relax these areas and breathe afterwards. We can't get stronger without nourishment and rest! I like to take breaks by bringing my knees in over my belly and rocking side-to-side; doing the knee to chest pose - apanasana - great for deepening the breath into the belly; and knee-drops with the feet wide apart on the floor, which also deepens the breath and encourages the entire pelvis to relax.
In a little while, you'll find that they don't call it a girdle for nothing! Imagine: a self-created, self-maintained, one-of-a-kind, nonrestrictive girdle which contains your tremendous strength and power!
In the next post I'll describe a variety of poses and practices you can do to reiterate and magnify this work in a variety of postures. Ultimately, we enhance our overall strength, energy, and mental clarity as we establish a strong, sturdy, unshakable foundation within.