This week’s challenge is to engage your core – all day, every day! We will get to “how” in a second, but first let me cover “why”:
- better-looking abs
- better-functioning abs
- easier and better breathing
- reduce back pain caused by bad posture or weak core muscles
- magically taller
- world peace
How do I engage my core?
It’s NOT the same as trying to “suck it in” to get into your high school jeans.
It’s NOT exactly like bracing your stomach to take a punch.
It’s DEFINITELY NOT pushing your abs out and away from your spine.
One illustration: Cough or Laugh
As you begin to cough or laugh, your core pulls in slightly. (I’ll wait while you cough and try to get the feeling. It’s ok, I would do it, too.) Voila, core engagement! It’s not a forceful movement – it’s a feeling of support that comes largely from your transverse abs (the abs underneath the ones that you see in the mirror).
Gently exhaling fully can also produce that feeling of core engagement at the end of your exhale.
Another illustration: Knit or Zip your Ribs Together
Envision your rib tips moving toward each other and let your body follow your mind’s lead. It might take a couple of tries, and you might find it easiest to access that feeling in downward dog or lying flat on your back. If you are comfortable with any kind of inversion (headstand, shoulderstand, even a TRX pike), this is also the natural, gentle squeeze that keeps you stable.
Shortcut: Get Unstable
Stand on an unstable surface like a Bosu, a thick mat, or soft sand. Your core will naturally try to engage to keep you upright. Not sure if you’re feeling it? Stand on one foot, or close your eyes!
Not a typo – you can’t have an anterior tilt (booty sticking out to the back because your pelvis is tipping forward) and engage your full core effectively at the same time. Many women who wear high heels regularly, sit a lot, or have tight lower backs have an anterior pelvic tilt, so before you try to get the feeling of core engagement:
- make sure your glutes and lower abs are relaxed
- stand with weight evenly distributed between both feet, and between the heel, ball, and toes of each foot
- let an invisible string pull your spine upright and straight from the tip of your tailbone to the crown of your head – or if you’re really not sure, try lying down on your back to avoid having a large arch in your lower back
Lower ab work is a great way to correct this tilt, by the way!