good to the CORE

Want to un­leash the true po­ten­tial of your mid­dle? Turns out crunches—yes, the ex­er­cise you’ve avoided for years in fa­vor of hold­ing Plank—are key to a stronger core and more sta­ble yoga prac­tice. Here’s how to do crunches so they serve you in ev­ery pose

Yoga Journal - - Practice Well - STORY AND SE­QUENCE BY TIF­FANY RUSSO PHO­TOG­RA­PHY BY AMANDA FRIEDMAN

YO­GIS KNOW that a strong core is cru­cial. Phys­i­cally, it’s what helps you stay bal­anced, move from one pose to the next with mus­cu­lar in­tegrity, and main­tain a healthy spine. Emo­tion­ally, your core is ar­guably your most im­por­tant body part: It’s the way you show up spir­i­tu­ally and eth­i­cally in the world. And given that the prac­tice of yoga is re­ally about con­nect­ing to your truest self, core work is key to de­vel­op­ing an even stronger sense of self.

De­spite all this, it can be tempt­ing to rush through core work or see it as merely a nec­es­sary evil. I know it’s not ev­ery­one’s fa­vorite por­tion of yoga class—I hear your grunts when I’m teach­ing!—but here’s an­other way to look at it: By work­ing your core with in­ten­tion, you’ll be bet­ter able to re­cruit your core mus­cles through­out your en­tire prac­tice, help­ing you en­gage the back body dur­ing for­ward bends (pre­vent­ing over-round­ing and over-stretch­ing of the low back) and the front body dur­ing back­bends (avoid­ing push­ing past what your body can man­age).

One of the most im­por­tant lessons I’ve learned in my years of prac­tic­ing and teach­ing is that how we work in poses is as im­por­tant as the poses them­selves. Do­ing the yoga crunch out­lined on the next page will en­gage your core mus­cles in such a way that you’re able to find that same “work” in each pose of the se­quence that fol­lows, not only help­ing you strengthen your core but also pre­par­ing you for your fullest—and safest—ex­pres­sion of each pose.

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