Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Improving Your Core With Pilates & Yoga

If you’re like me, you’re probably not a really big fan of sit ups and crunches.  They’re awkward, show mediocre results, and if your don’t do them properly, they can cause severe strain to your neck and back - something I can't risk, with my history of back problems.  But if you want strong, toned abs, you have to do crunches, right?  That used to be true, but now you have several options that don’t involve any stressful, painful crunches.  You can use Yoga, Pilates, or both to have sleek, toned abs, plus strong back muscles and a totally healthy overall physique.

Yoga (Photo credit: ScotiaProductions)
Yoga operates on several levels to help tone your abs, along with the rest of your body.  The basic concept of Yoga is to hold yourself in specific poses.  Holding these poses requires maintaining a correct posture.  Just being in a good posture can strengthen your abdominal muscles.  They are part of the core muscles that help you achieve and maintain proper posture.  Even though you can’t feel it, these muscles are constantly making tiny adjustments and getting a great workout. 

In Yoga, the poses are held for extended periods of time.  Slow even movements and long poses give your core muscles an even better workout and help develop stamina through muscle strength.  You’ll probably be able to notice a visible difference in your abs, but even if you can’t, you’ll know they’re stronger when you can maintain better balance for longer periods of time.

Another major part of Yoga is focused deep breathing that allows your body to relax as you hold the poses.  This deep breathing involves using your abdominal muscles instead of your shoulders to help inhale and exhale.  In addition to your abs helping you maintain balance, you also exercise them even more simply by breathing.

Curso de Instructor de Pilates
Pilates (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Pilates is similar to your abs with the benefits it offers.  Pilates requires use of your abdominal muscles for proper posture and for breathing, just as Yoga does; however, instead of remaining stable, you move your arms and legs around while (usually) keeping the core stationary.  This is actually just as beneficial for your abs because you have to use them to keep your body still while your arms and legs are in motion.  Natural movement would have your torso move, but your abs and back muscles must work to keep it stable.

Even though Yoga and Pilates are constantly working your abdominal muscles throughout the workout, there are also specific exercises you can do to target these areas, especially in Pilates.  These will give you the extra boost you need for more drastic results, if desired.

Neither Yoga or Pilates can be learned overnight; however, once you begin to master one of both or these arts, you will get an abs workout like never before without even thinking about crunches.  And they're also a lot of fun!  

Click here to check out some fun resources to learn Yoga and Pilates in your own home.

And check back later this week for some fun Yoga and Pilates workouts!

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