Why Yoga and Pilates Are a Great Way to Exercise the Core Muscles

Core muscle training may seem like a new exercise fad but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Yoga and Pilates practitioners have always recognised the key role of core strength in achieving an overall fitness and wellbeing. Popular exercise regimes have often focused on gaining visible muscle like the much sought after six-pack. The core muscle group has a less immediate and visible effect on appearance which may account for the slow rise in popular appeal but the appeal is now there and growing, for good reason.
What are core muscles and why are they so important?
The muscles of the torso all contribute to the core muscle group, from the pelvic floor to the diaphragm with the abdominals, the obliques and the muscles in the back and shoulders included. The torso is the power centre for the rest of the body and supplies the limbs with the energy and strength to lift, carry and complete all the daily tasks we take for granted. That is, we take them for granted, until something goes wrong. With poor core strength and balance, we are much more prone to injury and poor posture. Back-pain, which is a major discomfort and cause of sickness from work for millions of people, can be alleviated and even eradicated altogether through core strengthening exercise.
How does core strength exercise work?
If we look at activities such as Yoga and Pilates, the rules of core strengthening are all present. The emphasis is on slow and gradual movement with control and perfecting of technique, as opposed to pushing yourself to the max with as a many repetitions as possible. Awareness of posture and breathing at all times is essential and focusing on ensuring that the strain is being taken by the correct muscles. A good instructor, DVD or manual are vital in making sure you are clear about the technique and muscles to be used for each movement.
Strength, stamina and flexibility will develop gradually with slow increases in the length of time an exercise is carried out or how far you push yourself during each movement. The most effective exercises engage a number of muscles at once with the aim of gaining a stable centre of gravity and maintaining balance. Rest between exercises and sessions is important and allows the body to recover and strengthen.
Abdominal bracing is a technique often used during core strength exercise and involves tilting the pelvis forward, so that the naval seems to be naturally pulled in toward the spine. This allows the correct muscles to be used and avoids the arching of the back, which can lead to injury.
As we’ve already mentioned, core strength training is integral to Yoga and Pilates but the Swiss ball, free-weights and simple floor exercises can all improve core strength if carried out properly. If you’ve never done core exercises before you’ll be surprised by some of the varied and unusual movements and positions involved. You might find you even enjoy it! It is without doubt, worth giving it a go as the benefits to the whole body are indisputable and will allow you to carry out every sport and daily activity with added oomph.

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