Core is a popular word used these days in referring to reduced pain, fitness and overall wellness. Core stabilization is essential for proper load balance within the spine and pelvis. Lack of strength in some of the deeper core musculature means loss of power, loss of technique, and the propensity towards injury. The “core” is the group of trunk muscles that surround the spine and abdomen. This is where we generate, absorb, and transfer forces to and from our extremities. So in a sense, the “core rage” is smart because working your core is the most important training you can do for your body!
What’s better, stretching through Yoga or strengthening through Pilates?
It depends on your particular balance of muscle strength and flexibility. Yoga is great for flexibility and balance, and pilates is great for building a strong integrated core. Yoga can be very hard on the body if you are already too flexible as it can cause more instability in the joints. However some bodies need to lengthen before they can begin to get stronger. When muscles are too tight, range of motion is decreased, leading to decreased performance and increased injury risk. It is important to discover where you are tight and where you are weak, then build a program around these areas of concern. Pilates is a great place to start, because it is generally gentle enough for a beginner and can also be very challenging for someone who is more advanced.
The following exercises are a great start to getting the core and hips more stable and stronger. For some these may be very challenging, and that is fine. Do what you can and improve each week with practice. For others, this may be too easy, and that is great because you are now ready to move into more functional movement exercises.
How do you stabilize your core?
Lay on your back and bend your knees, feet flat on the floor. Place the fingers on the hip bones then move 1/3 the way in towards the belly button. Pull the belly button into the spine, and flex the abdomen muscles. While engaging the core muscles, hold for one minute, while focusing on breathing. Let the side and back of your lungs fill with air while keeping the front of your ribs knitted in and not pushing up. This should begin to feel natural. Engaging your core should not cause you to stop breathing. Now practice this exercise while standing, brushing your teeth or walking up the steps.