The word “core” has never been used as much as it is today in regards to fitness. Everyone wants a firm, strong core, but how do we know what particular yoga class will help get us there? Hatha? Ashtanga? Bikram? Kundalini? Viniyoga?
The bottom line is that there is not just one type of yoga class that will work your core, since the core is an integral part of every practice. Now, faster than you can say “Namaste,” there are several things to keep in mind. Many of us associate the word “core” with taut muscles and abdominal crunches. In fact, traditional exercises like stomach crunches are connected to the rectus abdominus, which is the most superficial of all the abdominal muscles (there are six different anterior abdominal wall muscles). However, the other muscles, such as transverse abdominus (TA) and the diaphragm, are really at the center of core strength and give us our true power source. The diaphragm muscle is truly the center of the body and initiates our breathing. From a pure yoga standpoint, the mere act of breathing engages our core with every inhale and exhale.
That being said, there are many yoga classes that have core-specific elements. Many styles isolate the pelvic floor and TA muscles, teach us how to engage with the breath, as well as how to move while keeping this connection. Then, you will move into postures that strengthen and stabilize these muscles and finish with some stronger postures that require not only core strength but also upper body strength. In yoga, we learn that the real foundation of a powerful core is strong and steady breathing. Since every yoga class focuses on breathing, you can be sure that your core will be engaged during every class. Many yoga instructors will remind students to work with their core even outside of class to give them strength and lift. This will go a long way towards helping to prevent lower back injuries and strengthening muscles.
Many people are confused if yoga helps with effective weight-loss. Although sticking to a healthy diet based on whole, real food, is the cornerstone of effective weight-loss, practices like yoga will complement healthy living. Instead of associating yoga with pounds on the scale, associate it with mindfulness and building a stronger, healthier body.