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5 Yoga Poses for Perfect Posture

5 Yoga Poses for Perfect Posture

Practice makes perfect. And I’m talking posture!

Imagine being in a room full of people and someone walks in and instantly commands the room without a word spoken.

How do they do that? Fancy clothes? Fireworks? Paid groupies?

No. Amazing posture.

Perfect posture.

Because how you carry yourself says a lot about who you are, your self-esteem, your relationship with the world, and how you feel about yourself.

Ever observe someone depressed. They posture says “don’t come near me, don’t touch me”, a fetal like position of protection.

But when you see that person whose posture screams confidence, openness, and ease, you can’t help but want some of that secret sauce they have been drinking.

Only they haven’t been drinking, they have been moving. Moving in the right way.

So to help you on your posture perfect path not only for your body’s health and alignment but your own mental, emotional and social health here are my TOP 5 POSTURE PERFECT YOGA POSES.

Top 5 Yoga Poses for Better Posture

1. Heart Opening Mountain Pose

  • Standing at attention with your weight even on your feet.
  • Turn your feet to face forward and draw your pelvic into neutral (pubis bone and front hip bones all parallel with the front wall).
  • Interlace your fingers behind your back (or grab a strap or towel if your hands can’t clasp or you can clasp but have no range of motion).
  • INHALE, drawing the shoulder blades together and down as the arms externally rotate.
  • Lift your chest gently and keeping space in the back of the neck gently lookup.

Play with rotating your arms and wrists to find the most appropriate release in the shoulders. Breathe deeply into the lungs to open the chest further. Enjoy for five to ten breaths.

Mountain Pose

2. Shoulder Blade Runner

  • Standing at attention in Mountain Pose, draw your arms up in front of you at shoulder height.
  • Turn your palms to face each other and the folds of your elbows to gently face up (no hyperextension), keeping a solid pelvis (see #1) and a stable rib cage (no thrusting). Only move your shoulders.
  • Inhale, pinching your shoulder blades together like they are going to come together over your spine.
  • Exhale: reach your arms away without rounding your shoulders forward like you are reaching for an object just out of reach.

Repeat this movement focusing on range of motion ten to twenty times.

Shoulder Blade Runner

3. Turkey Neck Stretch

  • Seated tall, relax your shoulders down and back.
  • Drop your head forward and using your fingers pull down on the skin at your clavicles.
  • Keep that connection and open your mouth as wide as you can.
  • Keeping it open, tip the head back, as you do so pull down on the skin creating a facial stretch.
  • Now close your mouth and imagine you have an underbite and push the bottom jaw upward.
  • Try sliding the bottom jaw side to side to find the most viable stretch. Hold for up to ten breaths.
  • Gently bring the head back to center.

Turkey Neck Stretch

4. Melting Wheel

Dust off your large Swiss ball (the one you bought thinking you’d sit on at your desk, make sure it’s well inflated). Take a seat on the edge of it and slowly start to lean back over the ball. If your lower back feels tight, tip the tail bone up between the legs to lengthen the lower back. Now play with where your arms lay to open the front line of the body and pretend that you are making a snow angel and when you find a point of release, hold your arms there until you feel release (your arms may not be symmetrical).

Play with your body and using your legs, experiment with squatting, and then moving your head towards the ground to choose where you want to focus-lower back and hip flexors or chest, arms and shoulders. Enjoy as long as you feel comfortable. To come up, begin to squat and roll yourself up back on top of the ball. And counterbalance by hinging forward.

Melting Wheel

5. Rolling Forward Fold

Staring in Mountain Pose, bend the knees and imagine you are like a flag blowing in the wind. Exhale and loosely roll yourself down into Forward Bend. Like you were jumping on a trampoline, bend your knees and think about being sprung up (rolling) into a standing extension.

In standing extension keep your knees bent and float your pelvis forward as you arch back. You should feel your core turn on and your front line of the body stretch. Exhale, bend the knees, and fall/roll back down (think less control and more flow). Repeat this movement fine to ten times.

Rolling Forward Fold

Posture does make perfect. Because how you present yourself to the world is how you receive it back.

For more moves just like these check out my ONLINE MOVEMENT STUDIO

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I want to know: Which move do you like most? 

 

Pelvic Tilts & Their 20 Benefits for Beginners

Pelvic Tilts & Their 20 Benefits for Beginners

Beginners Core: How to do Pelvic Tilts.

What if reducing back pain, increasing core awareness, and strength. Reducing hip pain and aiding the natural curves in your spine “were” easy to do?

It has been brought to my attention on more than one occasion that we as a society often overlook the power of simplicity. Is it that we are lead to believe that if something isn’t complicated? Or expensive or taught at a fancy center that it cannot truly be helpful?

I occasionally have students mention that they are off to PT for this or that. Only to find that what they are being told to do are the very things they are learning in my classes. And the therapists are amazed at their sense of awareness and ability. Now, this is not to toot my own horn. But rather push my point that sometimes we don’t realize the power of something until we step away from it.

And the same goes for simple movements.

Have back pain? Who doesn’t?

Struggling with your, ahem, pelvic floor? You’re not alone.

What if there was something you could be doing right now to help those areas improve?

Would you be O.K. with the notion that the approach was simple, elementary, small and lacks a fancy name and does not end in a complicated arm balance? Would that be O.K.?

Sometimes to truly take a step forward, we do in-fact have to take a step back, and that is where pelvic tilts come in.

Not in the sense that we are losing ground or less than, but rather that we are in deep need to create a deeper sense of awareness and understanding of our body and how it moves.

Pelvic tilts truly are one of my most favorite moves, and I often think of it as a secret weapon! This small movement packs a powerful punch! That it simultaneously free your lower back release your hip flexors. In addition, pelvic tilts improve core function and awareness and ungulates your entire spine.

I know what you are thinking now, “where can you sign me up” for learning how to do pelvic tilts??

Except as a yoga and movement teacher for over fifteen years now I have learned that one: I was practicing pelvic tilting all wrong. And two: I see many following in my similar footsteps.

Let’s fix that!

There are tons of benefits to pelvic tilting and it SHOULD be an exercise that everyone does regularly. Because you can do it in just about any plane of motion and position.

If you need a list of reasons WHY pelvic tilts are not just good for you, but necessary!

What are the benefits of Pelvic Tilts?

  • * Pelvic tilts create a sense of awareness of the pelvic floor muscles
  • *Pelvic tilts release sacral (SI joint) pain
  • *Pelvic tilts release the femur, tailbone, sacrum connection for more mobility and motility
  • *Pelvic tilts help one access and tone the lower abdomen muscles
  • *Pelvic tilts release lower back
  • *Pelvic tilts liberate the entire spine
  • *Pelvic tilts loosen tightness hanging on the shoulders
  • *Pelvic tilts release tightness of the inner hips and inner pelvic attachments
  • *Pelvic tilts tone the pelvic floor and core muscles
  • *Pelvic tilts activate the glutes/buttocks
  • *Pelvic tilts increase awareness of the hip-spine relationship
  • *Pelvic tilts assist in a deeper breathing and better lung use
  • *Pelvic tilts enhance your body’s natural alignment and curvature
  • *Pelvic tilts assist your lumbo-pelvic relationship to sit in neutral with less pain and restriction
  • *Pelvic tilts improve posture
  • *Pelvic tilts help you look taller and leaner
  • *Pelvic tilts teach you how to wear your core on the inside of the body rather than the outside
  • *Pelvic tilts release the lateral side body
  • *Pelvic tilts stretch the abdominal walls from sitting all-day
  • *Pelvic tilts release the fascial netting of the lower body and spine.

By now you are wondering how do you effectively and properly practice pelvic tilts?

How To Do Pelvic Tilts:

  1. Pick your position. You can practice pelvic tilting lying down, standing in a slight chair pose, sitting, or even prone. I think supine is the simplest way to practice and the floor gives you good feedback as to what you are doing for starters.
  2. Lying down with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor, make sure your heels are not too close to your sit bones, when they are too close it inhibits the range of motion for pelvic tilting.
  3. Find your breath, a deep breath in through your nose and out through your nose to settle into your body.
  4. Keep your body relaxed for now, INHALE and work to arch your lower back away from the floor, like there was a pin poking you. Do not lift your hips off the ground. Go as far as you can comfortably and keep stretching until your inhale is complete.
  5. Pause for a moment.
  6. Now EXHALE and glide your lower back into the floor, WITHOUT squeezing your buttocks together or lifting your hips up off the floor while pelvic tilting.
  7. Now repeat again drawing a deeper sense of awareness to the movement, between what moves and what doesn’t.
  8. After a few rounds, on the exhales work to draw awareness and attention to your anal sphincter, with the exhale on the posterior tilt (when you tip back into the floor) work to contract that part of the pelvic floor. Notice what else wants to contract, more than likely trying to do the job for this part of your pelvic floor, especially if you have never used it before.
  9. Inhale release the anal sphincter. You will notice if you contracted when you proceed to release. Do this several rounds.
  10. Now mentally move forward on your pelvic floor and work to contract the vaginal passageway or for men the soft tissue behind the scrotum. For many, this will be more difficult, especially if there was trauma (like giving birth) the nerves and tissues may not be connecting back with the brain properly.
  11. Repeat the process of EXHALE contract and tip back, and INHALE release and tip forward. This will feel more internal. Think about contracting while in cold water, or for men like flexing an erection, women engaging during intercourse. (I see potential practice opportunities to engage your pelvic floor here).
  12. Now finally move even more forward on the pelvic floor and think about where your pubic bone is and work to contract the lower front belly and pelvic floor on the exhales. This will feel more like pulling inward on the belly, but this time it’s triggered by the pelvic floor not the navel. Think of the action of cutting off the flow of urine or holding when you have to go to the bathroom. Good news, those two actions ask you to use your pelvic floor muscles.
  13. Repeat tilting trying to engage each of these three areas, all individually, and all together. Notice what is easier and what takes more work.

A few other tips about pelvic tilts:

As you become more comfortable with the movement, especially while lying down. Consider adding in the arms to the movement. INHALE and arch the back, release the pelvic floor, AND reach your arms overhead! STRETCH. Exhale and return back to the floor and contract the pelvic floor.

By incorporating the arms in you get more of a full spinal interaction. Plus, the hip flexors and lower back get even more limelight. Notice when reaching if one arm hits the floor and the other does not. This can easily become a tool for not only teaching pelvic floor activation and releasing the lower back. Which can also assist spinal and fascial assessment as well.

Here’s to happy pelvic tilts!

P.S. Not sure where the heck your pelvic floor is??? >>> CLICK HERE.  <<<

And learn about it NOW!

PPS Here is a great video I shot of an entire series of pelvic tilting, core integration, and full spinal release! Because everyone needs a visual!

 >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>CLICK HERE <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

Yin Yoga 101: What You Need To Know

Yin Yoga 101: What You Need To Know

Let’s get started:

Yin Yoga, a less popular style of yoga in the west is an approach that some may have never even heard of. One that in my experience, takes many a few times to really warm up to and even understand. Initially called “Daoist” yoga this style of yoga targets the deep connective tissues of the body (vs. the superficial tissues) and the fascia that covers the body. Daoist yoga is designed to help regulate the flow of energy in the body. Paul Grilley is credited for bringing this concept to the forefront and offers Yin Yoga teacher training.

Postures

Yin Yoga postures are more passive postures, mainly on the floor and the majority of postures equal only about three dozen or so, much less than the more popular yang like practices. Yin Yoga is unique in that you are asked to relax in the posture, soften the muscle, and move closer to the bone. While yang-like yoga practices are more superficial, Yin offers a much deeper access to the body. It is not uncommon to see postures held for three to five minutes, even 20 minutes at a time. The time spent in these postures is much like time spent in meditation, and I often talk students through the postures as if they were trying to meditate. While in a Yin class you might notice similar postures to a yang class except they are called something else, on a basic level this is to help the students’ mind shift form yang to yin, active to passive.

This concept of Yin yoga has been around for thousands of years and some of the older text, such as the Hatha Yoga Pradipika notes only sixteen postures in its text, which is far less than the millions of postures practiced in today’s yoga. In addition, having read much of these texts and also cliff notes from various teachers it would appear that these “postures” were more yin like to help promote meditation and long periods of pranayama and sitting. Now I am not claiming to be an ancient text yoga guru, but this is just an observation I have made.

So what exactly is Yin yoga?

It is a more meditative approach with a physical focus much deeper than Yang like practices. Here the practitioner is trying to access the deeper tissues such as the connective tissue and fascia and many of the postures focus on areas that encompass a joint (hips, sacrum, spine). As one ages flexibility in the joints decreases and Yin yoga is a wonderful way to maintain that flexibility, something that for many don’t seem to be too concerned about until they notice it is gone.

Getting intimate

This intimate practice of yoga requires students to be ready to get intimate with the self, with feelings, sensations, and emotions, something of which I have noticed can be easy to avoid in a fast-paced yoga practice. Yin yoga is often used in programs that deal with addictions, eating disorders, anxiety, and deep pain or trauma. For me, my first experience with yoga was when I was knee-deep in an eating disorder. Not familiar with the difference in practices I did notice that yoga helped me, and I often equate my practice to saving my life. Now that being said, several years later I stumbled across Yin yoga and found that the recovery process I had been going through apparently needed some more work and WOW did Yin point that out to me. I often struggled with being alone, sitting with feelings and sensations (something addicts struggle with), and found it challenging to face myself and the rawness of what I was doing and who I was in that moment. This concept in practice allowed me a greater mental stability something that meditation offers as a benefit to basically “learn to sit still.”

Now if you’ve never practiced Yin yoga you might not quite understand how this is so different, but for me, Yin has dug deeper than I could have ever gotten otherwise. For my students, I often tell them when they are about to try a Yin class that they need to try it three or four times to really make a decision about the practice. Many find immediate benefits like more open hips, a more relaxed body, and a centered mind. To me, I don’t think one practice is better than the other, but what I would see as beneficial is for the practitioner to see the benefit in each and that there is a need for both. Possibly one benefiting more than the other at times in your life, but a need none-the-less.

Some of the benefits of Yin yoga are:

  • Calming and balancing to the mind and body
  • Regulates energy in the body
  • Increases mobility in the body, especially the joints and hips
  • Lowering of stress levels (no one needs that)
  • Greater stamina
  • Better lubrication and protection of joints
  • More flexibility in joints & connective tissue
  • Release of fascia throughout the body
  • Help with TMJ and migraines
  • Deeper Relaxation
  • A great coping for anxiety and stress
  • Better ability to sit for meditation
  • Ultimately you will have a better Yang practice
  • I really do believe that if you incorporate a little of both you will create a more well-rounded practice as well as a better-rounded version of the awesome you!

Yin-Yang symbol

If you take a peek at a Yin-Yang symbol, it is suggesting that no matter what, we should take a “tiny bit” and put it in the heart of its opposite. Knowing both practices, and having struggled with a wide variety of eating disorders, addiction, depression, and anxiety, I get that too much of something is simply too much. Yin yoga has taught me to truly be still, to really come face to face with myself, even more than my past practice has; and because of this, I am now able to bring what Yin has taught me into my more Yang like practices and ultimately my life as a whole.

Yin yoga teaches you how to really listen, you don’t get the opportunity to go in and out, jump around and find a distracted version of stillness within your practice. Yin is such a great compliment to other styles and your own personal life because it brings long periods of time in an uncomfortable position, which then asks you to learn to “be” to “accept what is” in that given moment. Something we can all benefit from daily. For me, I did not know how to be in my own company, I did not like to feel or be or anything that required me to have an emotion. There is something so deep about Yin that will tap into a part of you in a way only unique to Yin. And for me, a healthy Yin practice has poured over into a healthier Yang practice and a healthier life as a whole. And I wish that for everyone.


The Down Dog and Puppy Dog Blog: What You Are Missing

The Down Dog and Puppy Dog Blog: What You Are Missing

This video was created because of my yoga former teacher training students, 
may you never stop learning.

The Down Dog and Puppy Dog Blog: What You Are Missing

I never really gave much thought to Down Dog. I mean, it was a pose that I could do for the most part. Sure my shoulders were weak, and I felt a bit shaky. Overall, my Dog was down. 

Well, at least I thought. I believe there is a part of your brain that stops thinking, opening itself up to learning when we think we got it. That was me in Down Dog. 

As my shoulders got stronger to hold the weight of my body, I began to build patterns to get the pose done. Patterns that left me avoiding critical areas that I could most certainly be liberating via The Dog. 

A few years after entering into the world of teaching yoga, I soon discovered I was missing some significant aspects of training in the asana department. I mean, I knew the basics. This pose looks like this, so let’s shove your body into that pose. Amen. (insert sarcasm) 

Downward Facing Dog Pose with Hope Zvara

An entirely new world opened up to me when I stepped out of the yoga world to learn more about the body. Like really learn about how the body moves, why things happen, why body parts hurt and how to unwind the body with cues and directions beyond “if it hurts don’t do it” and “honor your body.” Which are both beautiful and sound cues, but I wanted to understand? I wanted my students to understand so that they and I could take back ownership over our bodies and start to truly mend injuries and issues that don’t ever seem to go away. 

I took training from The Gray’s Institute. From Katy Bowman, Leslee Bender, Anatomy Trains, and got my hands on all I could find from the teachings of Dr. Stewart McGill, to name a few. 

I first started to apply these concepts to my practice and saw a remarkable difference — less pain in my shoulders and lower back. The longstanding stability issues in my pelvis began to improve, and for the first time, I truly understood where the core was and how to access it. 

There was a time I would walk around the room while teaching and see a student’s shoulders what I now know as “internally rotated.” I’d attempt to grab onto his (or her) upper arms and roll them out. And when they didn’t even move a millimeter, I’d walk away pretending like that was how it was supposed to be. If you are a teacher you can relate. I wanted to help; I saw the issue but didn’t know exactly how to adjust the pose or how to “fix” it. Like why didn’t that work? Why didn’t they move? What was I missing? 

A lot of this video is to explain that. One’s shoulders are acting immobile and how to begin to correct this. 

How to do downward facing dog pose blog by hope zvara

The day I was introduced to Puppy Dog in a new way, my entire teachings revolving around Down Dog and shoulder issues changed. 

All-day long we sit, we are internally rotated at the shoulder, collapsed in the chest, and limited in mobility between the shoulder and the rib cage. So no wonder when we come to yoga and pop up into Down Dog with little notice and warm-up, we are in my mind (we could be) doing more harm than good. 

CLICK HERE TO VIEW VIDEO

It is my observation that Down Dog and Puppy Dog’s focus is NOT the hamstrings as they often take over the pose. Using cues to press their heels down (which is fine and dandy) and walk their Dog as the first cue in the pose. The focus, first and foremost, is the spine and shoulders, hamstrings, and calves. 

 Downward Dog is us upside down. And we should approach it in such away. 

If your hips are tight before a hippie pose, we work them. The same should be valid for the shoulders. 

Meet Puppy Dog Pose. Puppy Dog is not a fancy pose and most often looked at as a modification or lesser variation. But do not be fooled, my friend. Puppy Dog will expose everything Down Dog lets you avoid. 

Puppy Dog Pose with Hope Zvara

Puppy Dog assertively guides your shoulders and arms into their proper position- external rotation. It’s that fantastic stretch across the upper back and gives you back that full range of motion a little bit by little bit that Down Dog has been allowing you to skip over for all these years. 

Puppy Dog gives you that broadening, lift, and support we struggle to find in Down Dog. And when our Down Dog’s spine looks like a macaroni noodle releasing the hamstrings and bending the knees is the action step we want to cue. See, when the arms are at full extension, and the legs everything is pulled to its max and the spine gets caught in the middle. You end up with a rounded back, tucked pelvis and shoulder issues waiting to arise. Oh snap! I didn’t even mention proper leg rotation. GAME CHANGER! 

As you will find out in this video, by releasing some of the tension and adequately positioning the shoulders, you get an entirely different experience. One that in my mind is wayyyyyy better than the stuff I was experiencing earlier. 

Stiffness, not your issue? Watch the video and find out how to build stability by doing Down Facing Dog and Puppy Dog the right way. 

But honestly, whether you watch this video or not. The Benefits of Down Dog and Puppy Dog are out of this world amazing! 

Benefits of Down Dog and Puppy Dog:

  • Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression
  • Energizes the body
  • Stretches the shoulders, hamstrings, calves, arches, and hands
  • Strengthens the arms and legs
  • Helps reduce the symptoms of menopause
  • Helps prevent osteoporosis
  • Improves digestion
  • Relieves headache, insomnia, back pain, and fatigue
  • Therapeutic for high blood pressure, asthma, flat feet, sciatica, sinusitis
  • Tones the arms and legs
  • Opens the chest
  • Tones the arms
  • Tones the core
  • Releases the spine and back
  • Builds strength in hands, wrists, shoulders

 

Check out Hope’s other blog: 5 Things You Should be Doing to Help Back Pain

 Join Hope’s Online Community: Mindful Movement & Yoga Studio 

Subscribe to Hope’s YouTube Channel at https://www.youtube.com/hopezvara

Trim Your Waistline – Outrageous Obliques

Trim Your Waistline – Outrageous Obliques

As a fitness professional for over a decade, I have pretty much seen it all. Especially when it comes to core-based exercise. When you consider trying to bring some more attention to your midsection (and your obliques), a few things are important to consider:

Core work flat on your back is out!

Think about it, how do you spend your day? Upright! So doesn’t it make more sense to work with gravity in that manner?

Focus on feeling rather than doing.

Find guides that really help you tune into not only what you should be doing, but what you should and shouldn’t be feeling. If you need somewhere to start, consider my Mindful Movement Online Studio (just $9.99/month)

Work from the inside out.

No matter what you do, everything is core work. That being said, it all starts with a conscious pelvic-core (pelvic floor muscles plus deep core muscles) contraction.

We have a deep oblique — called the internal oblique — and an external oblique. These muscles overlap each other.

We need our obliques for many things: They offer support and stability for the back and hips. When developed properly, they improve spinal support, movement and function, as well as the relationship between the rib cage and pelvis. Strength to twist, bend sideways and rotate comes a great deal from our amazing obliques.

Here is one of my favorite tributes to our famous obliques:

  1. Start in a kneeling position (be sure to pad your knees if necessary), and grab your weight (if using one).
  2. Find neutral pelvis (your pubis bone and hip bones should run parallel with the wall you are facing).
  3. Contract your pelvic-core muscles (think bathroom muscles and torso muscles, much like when you cough).
  4. Steadily extend your right leg out to the side, turning your right foot parallel to your knee. Be sure to anchor your foot into the floor.
  5. Holding your weight in front of your chest, draw your elbows wide and relax your shoulders.
  6. Inhale, tip to the left as far as you can control, without folding in your left hip.
  7. Exhale, feel your waist (obliques) carry you back up with control. You should not feel any downward pressure into your pelvic floor when you lift (remember to keep those muscles strong).
  8. Repeat this process 10 times on each side. After you have repeated this on both sides, go back to your weaker side and complete the process again for a 2-to-1 ratio (weaker to stronger). If the weight creates too much tension work, do this exercise without added weight in front and instead hold opposite elbows with your forearms at chest height.

 

Here are some more resources on firing up your obliques!

Fire Up The Obliques With The Ring Of Fire

Get your Arms and Obliques Beach Body Ready — Oblique Lift & Lower

Better Obliques with Stretch and Strengthen

Oblique Jump Start, a Journey into the Real Core!

Arms & Obliques Oh’ My with Side Plank Lift & Lower

 

Have fun and keep at it!

 

 

This post was originally published on Nature’s Pathways, and updated on 10/4/19.

How To Get The Most Out Of Plank Pose

How To Get The Most Out Of Plank Pose

Almost every yoga class features at least one plank, yet very few can honestly say that they know completely what’s going on in Plankasana. Most view it as a great core asana, yet few actually access their true core. Many are cheating themselves or hurting their backs by allowing their arms to do all the work. You may not even realize you are doing plank WRONG!

To help you take full advantage of Plankasana, here’s an overview of this widely used, but often misunderstood asana. These lessons are adapted from a blog post I wrote for MindBodyGreen. For a limited time, I am offering my Master Plank course (6 weeks full of core-engaging content) for FREE! Sign Up today to get access to the course and get your plank in shape.

1. Pick your variation.

Will you be practicing on your hands or on your forearms? If you’re going to be practicing on your palms, set up your hands shoulder-distance apart and align the wrists under the shoulders. With your middle fingers pointing forward, press your entire hand into the floor, keeping a bit more weight in the knuckles.

From the shoulder, rotate the folds of the elbows forward, without hyperextending the joint (they look like they’re bending in the wrong direction). This is important so that you’re able to shift the load down into the core and prevent the shoulders from doing all the work. Without hunching, slide the shoulder blades down your back.

If you prefer planking on your forearms, get out of the habit of clasping the hands together in a triangle shape. This puts an emphasis on the pectorals, rather than the core. By opening up the arms to shoulder width, you shift the load to where it belongs. Turn the palms inward or upward when practicing, rather than down into the floor. Shift the weight evenly throughout the entire forearm and you’ll notice a significant increase in core power. Use a block between the palms for more core strength!

2. Get your legs in gear.

Your inner thighs are your pelvic floor’s favorite neighbor (way more than your butt). Bring your feet together so that they touch and engage your thighs inward toward each other. Then, press the quadriceps upward without hiking your buttocks. If you pay close enough attention, you should notice some activation in your pelvic floor area. By placing a foam yoga block or mini ball between the lower part of the thigh, you can generate more action in this area.

3. Resist gravity with the core.

Align your pelvis in neutral position (ASIS and pubis bone make a triangle shape that runs parallel to the floor), and resist gravity. By resisting gravity, you’re turning on your transversus abdominis, the hoop-like muscle at the deepest layer of the core. This is where the stability of plank begins.

Think of plank in thirds: 1/3 arms, 1/3 legs, 1/3 core. When you break down plank this way, you can focus on each section of the body and create better stability. Once you’ve successfully positioned yourself, check to make sure your head isn’t sagging (it puts more pressure on your wrists). Create length from your heels pressing back (not touching the floor) and your crown stretching forward.

Grab a partner and ask your partner to take her first two fingers and open them up like an upside-down V. Take that V and place a finger on each side of the lower spine. As she presses down on your lower back, resist her without pushing your buttocks upward or sagging down towards the floor. What you should feel is a quiver. This is the transversus abdominis earthquake.

4. Hold Your Plank.

Remain in Plankasana for up to 10 breaths, limiting belly breathing and maximizing side body breathing.

In Plank there should be zero back pain and no hip flexor pain. This can take time to perfect, especially if you’ve used everything but your core to do the core’s job throughout your entire life.

If your shoulder blades look like wings on an airplane, press into your palms and work to lift the rib cage up away from the floor. You’ll benefit greatly from the scapula push-up.

If you’re the opposite and you overly round your upper back (still avoiding your core), you’re probably overexerting your arm and chest muscles. Try sinking your chest a bit. As a teacher, I often rub my hand on the upper back to help smooth out this area.

 

The next time you practice plank, take a few extra moments to explain it thoroughly to your students or run through the tweaks yourself. Your core will thank you later. If you want more help with MASTERING your plank, join me in my six-week Master Plank course, FREE for a limited time.

Master Plank Course Hope Zvara

If you are looking to strengthen your TRUE core for core stability, mobility, and functionality, consider the Three-Week Core Functional Fitness Course. My Core Functional Fitness Training approaches your core from all planes of motion – the way our bodies REALLY move – to reduce pain and injury, improve function, and deliver REAL power to your core – 408% more power!

Core Functional Fitness Hope Zvara

 

Happy Planking!

 

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