By Bronwyn Ison
Six-pack abs appears to be a fascination with Americans. Possessing rock-hard washboard abs is the goal amongst many. Truly one should be thinking, how do I maintain the muscles “springy and elastic,” in a well honed state?” A healthy muscle has this consistency. Many people get caught up in how many crunches or abdominal exercises they can do in one day. This is a misconception. You don’t need to have a six-pack to have healthy abs.
Fortunately our abdominals are a group of muscles that can be exercised everyday. Let’s take a look at the anatomy of our abdominals. The rectus abdominis is actually the 10-pack that runs from the pubic bone to the breastbone. This muscle helps us rise out of bed in the morning. This muscle is also the most superficial and visible of the four abdominal muscle groups. The internal and external obliques are on the sides of the torso and helps us bend and twist. Our oblique muscles are used in virtually every activity. Finally, the deepest layer of abdominal muscles is the transverse abdominus. The center of all of our movement stems from the transverse. The transverse abdominus is located horizontally underneath the rectus abdominis and the obliques. The transverse also function with the autonomic nervous system. I am a yoga instructor and those who attend my classes know I focus heavily on strengthening the abs. Yoga is excellent for training and building strength and healthy abs. Too many people think ab training is doing hundreds of crunches, which does nothing for flexibilty. The reality is, you should train for strength. You can actually shorten your muscles by only doing crunches or training for a six-pack. If you train in only one direction, you’re limiting your range of motion.
Some would say our abdominals speak volumes to our mental health as well. You know when you get a gut feeling about something. Research tells us we hold a lot of anxiety in the abdominal region. Working the abdominals may help relieve some of this tension. As we know physical activity can relieve stress, tension, and anxiety. Connecting with your center may assist with understanding and listening to your gut feelings.
Utilizing proper breathing while performing abdominal exercises will be essential for how you strengthen and tone this region. In my experience as a yoga instructor, I have learned many students are troubled when trying to identify their lower belly. The area from the pubic bone to the navel is challenging to identify because it’s an area not verbally expressed by many teachers or coaches. This area can also be referred to as the “sleepy area” of the abdominals. This area can be awakened with specific exercises and breathing techniques.
Understanding and developing your core strength is one thing. Most importantly, maintaining the strength by being consistent in your exercises is paramount. Mix up your exercises so you don’t lose interest. I generally refer to our abdominal region as a corset. It supports your organs and your spine. Think healthy abs, healthy spine, healthy body and mind.
Bronwyn Ison is the owner of Evolve Yoga. www.e-volveyoga.com 760.564.YOGA