When most people hear the word core they usually think of the stomach or abdominal muscles, and the obliques located on either side of the stomach below the ribcage.
What is consistently overlooked is the fact the our butts represents a major part of the core strength.
The Gluteus Maximus is the largest and most posterior of the four muscles located on the outside of the pelvis. The glutes work unconsciously during standing and walking, which is why it is extremely important that we make a conscious (and some times painful!) effort to awaken and strengthen this muscle. If your job requires you to spend long hours sitting at a desk, on a computer, standing for long periods of time, or spending a large amount of time driving in the car, then chances are you have an inactive, weak butt. If so, there’s an even better chance that your back is suffering the consequences.
Through various yoga postures it is possible to focus on working the butt by bringing awareness to the muscle, feeling the power when engaged and becoming more comfortable, more stable when activating the glutes throughout your practice. Tightness in the glutes can limit forward bend and weakness limits backbends. Simply stated: strengthening the butt, strengthens the core, offering relief and protection for the lower back.
So where to start? Targeting the glutes is easy because we use them in several different kinds of poses including standing, backbends and forward bends. So……….
Here are my top 5 favorite poses for working that booty!
1. Chair (Utkatasana) : Chair is one of my all time favorite poses because I feel it does an amazing job counter-acting all the negative effects of sitting whether it’s in the car, on the computer or on the couch, chair will wake up those sleepy glutes in no time! — Begin in mountain pose. Inhale your arms all the way up. Exhale into a forward fold. Inhale your arms all the way up and exhale sitting back into an imaginary chair. You want to sit as far down and back as possible. Arms can reach up to the sky passing by the ears, out in front palms facing the ground, or with the hands at heart center. Your weight should be in your heels. Look down to check that your knees are behind your toes. If they aren’t, adjust your butt further back so they are. Squeeze the glutes, keeping your chest up and your shoulders down. Keep breathing. Hold. Repeat. *Try variations such as twists, or lifting one foot off the ground at a time for fun
2. Crescent Warrior (Virabhadrasana) I really enjoy crescent because it is easier to feel the difference between an engaged or relaxed glute. Plus, crescent is easy to get to from almost any pose! — From forward fold. Step the right foot back coming into a high lunge. Find your balance on the back toe. Inhale sweeping the arms up, reaching towards the sky. Hips facing forward. Keep the back heel lifted and squeeze the glutes. Keep your shoulders down and your chest up. Breathe and hold. Return your palms to the mat. Step the right foot forward. Fold. Repeat other side. *For more intensity try doing lunges while in Crescent! Exhale dropping your knee to the ground. Inhale and squeeze the glutes as you come up. Be sure to do both sides!
3. Plank (High Push-Up) (Chaturanga) Not only is plank great for the core, it does wonders for the entire body, developing the overall fitness level including the heart and lungs. I also like practicing forearm plank because it can be less intense with similar benefits. — From fold. Step the right foot back and step the left foot. Shoulders should be above the hands, spreading the fingertips apart. If there is any pressure in the wrists, use fists. Squeeze the butt. Squeeze the belly. Feel the strength in the back and shoulders. Keep breathing. It is very important that you keep the hips lifted in order to strengthen the core and protect the lower back. If you feel your hips dropping, release your knees to the mat. Relax in Child’s pose. Repeat. *For an extra challenge try lifting one foot at a time a few inches off the ground.
4. Bridge (Setubandhasana) Bridge is a great pose for everyone. From beginners to gurus, bridge is a very simple pose that helps strengthen the back, butt, legs and ankles. Plus, there are a ton of fun, easy variations to boost the intensity! — Begin lying on your back with the knees bent. Feet hip distance apart. Ankles directly under knees. Arms are at your side with palms pressing into the floor. Inhale and lift the hips towards the sky, squeezing the butt. Activate the thigh muscles as if you were squeezing an imaginary block between your knees, creating internal rotation of the femur bone. Keep squeezing and lifting as high as you can. Exhale and slowly release your spine to the floor. Repeat. *Try pulsating bridge by flowing with your breath (inhale up, exhale down), or extending on leg out at a time! ***If you are a regular practicing yogi I would also recommend Wheel for its butt strengthening benefits following bridge
5. Bow (Dhanurasana) Bow is a pose I am starting to love more than loathe. When it is not forced or overdone, it is magical, but can sometimes be too much for the lower back. Enter this pose very slowly and be aware of your edge. Taking time to breathe while listening to the body. — Begin lying on your belly. Inhale bending the knees as the feet come towards the butt. Reach back and grab the feet. Kick into the hands as you open the shoulders. Lift the chest and keep kicking the feet into the hands, away from the butt. Try to keep the knees together. Breathe. Relax in child’s pose.
See you on the mat!
*Information from Ray Long’s “The Key Muscles of Yoga”, and “Integrative Yoga Therapy” by Joseph and Lilian Le Page