Simple Sequence: Dolphin to Dolphin-Plank

As a long time coach and even longer time athlete, I feel I have a pretty good understanding about the importance of a strong core.  Literally, everything is built around your core, which includes not only your abdominals, but also the muscles of your back, and (according to some sources) your hip flexors as well.  Most, if not all, athletic movements rely on core strength and flexibility, and having a strong and healthy core can pave the way for a spectacular performance.

Now think about yoga.  Can you think of a single asana that doesn’t involve the core in some way?  Even Savasana requires small pelvic tilts and alignments before settling into a focus on the breath.  If you consider the language that yoga teachers use, most instruction begins with a focus on the core, whether it’s to engage the abdominals, bend from the hips, or release tension in the spine.  Clearly, core matters.

Therefore, today’s Simple Sequence will focus on just two asanas that I have found to be ideal for cultivating a strong core.  Core work of some kind should be incorporated in most practice sessions.  I say “most” because some sessions (think Yin or restorative practices) have intentions that don’t require focused core work (although the core will undoubtedly be used in some manner).  This short sequence can be incorporated into any sequence anytime after your body has been awakened with Sun Salutations (or any similar “warming” vinyasa).

Simple Sequence: Dolphin to Dolphin-Plank (and back again)

  • Starting on all fours, place your forearms on the floor, pressing the palms together.  It may look as if you’re creating a triangle or pyramid with your forearms.  Once your arms are established, push your hips up into the air, as if you’re doing Downward Facing Dog.  Push the sitting bones up, work on drawing your heels towards the floor, and press actively with your forearms.  Remain in Dolphin Pose for three to five breaths.
  • Keeping your arms in the same position, move into Dolphin-Plank.  Lower your hips down until your torso is parallel to the floor and your body is supported only by your toes and your forearms.  Lengthen towards your heels, keep your head neutral, and feel the strength of your core.  Stay here for three to five breaths.
  • You can repeat the sequence three to five times, lengthening the time you stay in each pose as your core strengthens.  Remember, these two poses are just a taste of core-cenrtic poses, and every pose will require some sort of attention to your torso.  Every action you take in life will benefit from a strong core, so don’t shy away from poses that seem too focused on abdominals.

Dolphin Pose from yogajournal.com

Advertisements

Simple Sequence – Modified Half Sun Salutation

I must admit, I enjoy the diversity and rigor of a solid, challenging asana sequence.  It’s definitely rewarding to work my way through a difficult series of poses, culminating with a peak pose that allows me to reconsider that ever elusive, ever evolving yogic “edge.”  However, as fun and satisfying it might be to hit “big” poses (well, big to me) like Crane, Monkey, or Firefly, there is a lot to say for simple, comfortable, reliable poses and sequences. 

Simple sequences are like old friends, poses you can always return to, regardless of where’re you’re at physically, mentally, or emotionally.  They are a call to honor fundamentals, to reestablish alignment, or to quiet the mind.  They may not be as flashy or as interesting as more challenging sequences, but maybe that’s the point.  For me, yoga is not as much about displays of physical prowess as it is about connecting the physical existence to the mental or spiritual.  And while complex sequences might expand the mind, they should be balanced by simple sequences that allow practitioners to integrate, develop, and deepen that expansion.

So without further ado, I present my first simple sequence.  It’s nothing new or revolutionary, so I don’t want to take any undue credit for it.  In essence, it’s s simple modification of the first portion of Ashtanga yoga’s Sun Salutation B, with the placement of Chair Pose move back a bit.  Its one of my favorite simple sequences to warm up my legs, as it involves both lengthening and eccentrically working the major muscle groups in the legs.  It awakens the entire lower half of your body and prepares you for the rest of your practice.  It’s also a perfect sequence to throw in after holding poses for extended periods, simple as a “shake out.”  As an added bonus, it’s a simple sequence you can do in the office to avoid the tightness that comes from sitting behind a desk for hours.  Give it a go, and don’t be afraid to modify it to fit your needs.

Simple Sequence – Modified Half Sun Salutation

  • Start in Tadasana (Mountain Pose), quadriceps engaged, creating a line of energy extending from your feet up through the crown of your head.  I prefer the Samasthiti Variation here, with my feet hip distance apart and my hands at Prayer Pose.
  • Inhale, reaching both arms up into Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Salute), extending your elbows and gazing up slightly. 
  • From Urdhva Hastasana, exhale and swan dive slowly forward into Uttanasana (Standing Forward Fold).  Let gravity take over here, and don’t be afraid to let your knees bend if you have tight hamstrings. 
  • As you inhale, raise your arms up over your head and sit your hips back into Utkatasana (Chair Pose).  You only need to sit as low as is comfortable for you; depth will come later.  Work on keeping your spine straight and your breath even.  Stay here for one breath.
  • On your next inhalation, use the strength of your legs, push back up into Urdhva Hastasana.  Be careful not to let your knees splay out or bend in as you stand up. 
  • Exhale and lower the hands back to Samasthiti.

You can repeat this simple sequence as many times as is necessary to get your legs going.  Use it as a break from sitting, a reminder that your legs are both strong and supple.  In fact, I may do a few rounds myself right now.