Getting started with core work can be a challenge. We tend to feel our back, our hips, our necks or the front of our legs and NOT our abdominal muscles. It can feel super frustrating leading you to give up before you get started.
A safer way to engage your core and to remove a lot of discomfort, is to start by using a stability ball. The ball helps to support some of your body weight so you can challenge your abdominal muscles without having to recruit quite so many accessory muscles. It is a way of easing you into the work and helping you to learn your connections to help build your strength.
To Get Started:
Find the right sized ball for your body. Watch the following video and notice how the orange ball is too big for my body. It causes me to arch my spine and rib cage and I am unable to connect to my abdominals. The purple and blue balls are better suited to my body size because I am able to maintain a natural position in my spine and am able to feel relaxed in the start position.
Getting Into Position Safely:
Sit at the front edge of your mat placing the ball at the base of your spine. Roll backwards over the ball, using your hands to guide you back. It can feel scary initially to go backwards over the ball. Roll until the ball is under your pelvis, generally more towards the tail. You do not want the ball on your low back, you must be resting on your pelvis so you can relax your spine.
Performing the Movement:
Single Leg Knee Folds: Inhale to draw one knee up, Exhale to Lower. Switch Legs. Repeat 3 times.
Alternating Knee Folds: Inhale to draw one leg up, hold it up, exhale to bring the second leg to meet the first. Inhale one leg down, exhale the other. Alternate the leg you start with. Repeat 4 times.
Marching Knee Folds: Maintain the knee fold in your leg at 90 degrees, inhale to lower one leg down towards the mat (you may or may not touch), exhale to return. Switch legs. Start by moving only one leg at a time and then progress so one leg is going down while one leg returns. You should be working from your abdominals and not your low back. Repeat 5 times.
Lower & Lift Bent Legs: Maintain the knee fold in your legs at 90 degrees, inhale to lower both legs towards the mat, exhale to return. Only lower the legs as far as you can maintain a connection in your core without feeling your low back. You may need to exhale in both directions for additional support. Repeat 5 times.
Frog: Make a diamond shape with your legs, knees apart heels together. Inhale to extend the legs away from you, exhale to return. The legs do not have to fully extend, this will depend on your ability to control the movement from your core. The height of the legs will also depend on your abdominal strength. You want to feel the work in your belly and not your low back. Complete 5-8 Reps
Lower & Lift Straight Legs: Extend the legs to the ceiling, inhale to lower the legs as far as you can maintain your abdominal connection, exhale to bring the legs back to vertical. Try not to use momentum to move the legs but focus on your breath and your connections. Only go as low as you can maintain your abdominal connection and not feel the work in your back. Complete 5-8 Reps.
Scissors: Extend both legs to the ceiling, inhale and extend one leg towards the floor and one leg towards your head, exhale to switch. Slide the legs past one another. Feel a stretch in the back of the leg coming towards you and a stretch in the front of the leg going away. You could pause and hold the leg towards you while you reach the other away. It feels really great. Repeat 5 times.
Leg Circles: Extend both legs to the ceiling, inhale to lower both legs away from you, exhale to circle the legs out and around and back to vertical. Do 3-5 circles in the same direction and the reverse and complete in the other direction. Ensure your back does not arch or change alignment as you circle the legs. The circle should come from the leg in the hip socket and not the pelvis.
This entire sequence can be done without the ball under the pelvis. It is super challenging to complete as the load on the abdominals is increased significantly.
Disclaimer: All movement challenges should be done safely and without risk to the dog or human. The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never disregard professional medical advice, or delay in seeking it, because of something you have read on this website. Never rely on information on this website in place of seeking professional medical advice.
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