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Season 2 - Episode 7

Core Awareness & Strength

30 min - Practice


Bring increased awareness and strength to the muscles that make up your core in the legs, hips, abdomen, glutes, and back. We explore dynamic movement in back bends, Woodchoppers, Goddess pose, forearm plank, and bicycles to improve circulation, posture, range of motion, and stability. You will feel centered and refreshed.
What You'll Need: Mat, Blanket, Block (2)

About This Video

Nov 23, 2023
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Hello, everyone. Thanks so much for being here to practice with me today. I've got a great core practice for you. We'll use a blanket and a couple blocks for our session. And I've opened up a blanket because I always love a little extra padding under my knees.

So maybe you open up a blanket and then grab 1 or 2 blocks, whatever helps you sit maybe with your legs folded back more easily. I'm sitting on a medium sized block. So it looks like that. And it's between my ankles and feet. So what's the best position for you to come into a nice tall spine? Let's put your hands somewhere on your thighs.

And before we get settled, we're gonna do a little bit of tipping back in the pelvis and a little bit rocking forward. So we're just kind of feeling where we are in the help us as we go back and forth. If it's helpful for you to have your hands on your hips, please also join me in that and actually feeling what sort of movements happening in the pelvis, low back before we go a little bit deeper into some of our core practices. Unless we start to settle here, then maybe the hands will stay on the legs and see if we can allow with a nice tall find the belly to drop out on the inhale and sense a little bit of firming and toning in the belly as you exhale. Maybe it's also helpful to have a hand in this belly area. So we're encouraging kind of a softening and widening.

And then as you exhale belly moves a little bit in towards your back to kinda orientate to this whole center of your body, either with your eyes open or close whatever feels most comfortable. 6, 3 more breaths getting literally centered, belly out, and belly in. Belly out and belly in. And if we keep your hands maybe now on your legs, and let's alternate bringing now your left arm up towards your ear without moving your ribs forward in space. So you're kind of engaging your core muscles. To stay neutral.

Left arm down. So if you can do the same idea with your right arm up towards your ear, right arm down. Keep your ribs right here as we take our arms up towards the ears and then reach over and grab the opposite elbow. Let's do a little lift of the elbows up into your hands and then a slight arch over to your right up to center and then a slight tilt over to your left. Back to center and bring your hands back to your thighs. Alright. So try to keep your ribs right here as you take your left arm again up. And down.

Ride arm goes up without moving the ribs and down. Both arms up with your ribs neutral. Reach over, catch your forearm or your elbow and do a lift of elbows into your hands. Then a slight arch to the left. Doesn't really matter which side.

We'll do both, maybe to your right. Come up to center and then bring the hands down. One more time. Keep your ribs up right there. Left arm up. And down.

Right arm up and down, and we'll take both arms up. Reach over, grab that forearm or elbow, do a little lift, back ribs come away from the pelvis, and now let's go ahead and tip to a sides. You choose center opposite side and back to center. Alright. Arms down. Let's lift off whatever you've been sitting on, and we're gonna transfer this block.

If you like the narrow width between the knees or medium width between the knees, thighs knees that general area as we turn to face the short end of your mat. We're gonna walk your hands forward to the blankets, have your toes curled under so we start waking up the feet and squeeze the block with your legs just so you're getting a little feedback of what core muscles you're working from your legs all the way up towards the abdomen as you squeeze. And then soften the squeeze as you drop your belly and look forward. Squeeze, and we're gonna round a little bit more. Look towards your knees, and then lift your knees and inch off the blanket.

We'll find a rhythm knees back down. Look forward soft belly open chest squeeze of the block rounding of the back. Look to the knees, lift your knees. Back down, soft belly, look forward. Squeeze your block big exhale round, look towards the knees, lift the knees, these down look forward one more time, squeeze your block round lift your knees and then lift your hips a little higher as you stretch your legs a little straighter, still engaging with your blocks, or we're waking up inner legs.

Which I consider part of your core muscles. Bring the knees down. Now rather than having the hands down, please bring your elbows to the floor, so four arms are down. Similar idea, toe stay curled under look towards your forearms or your wrist, whatever one allows you to have a long neck. Then as you exhale, we're gonna round, spread your shoulders more, look towards your knees, and now go towards straighter legs as you send the block away from the abdomen.

Knees down, look forward on inhale and maybe a fuller exhale, maybe all the breath out as you round, lift your knees, lift your abdomen, and feel that knee will move deeper in towards your back. Knees down, belly drops. We look forward. And then we do that full or exhale, maybe all the breath out as you round. Lift your knees.

Feel a little Halloween and below abdomen as you float your hips up. Come down one more looking slightly forward soft belly, a complete, comfortable exhale hold, knees up, keep bringing abdomen in toward the lower back, and then we'll bring the knees down. Alright. Now let's go ahead from here and adjust the block. So it's gonna be flat with flush with the front of your thighs. So you could bring your pelvis to the blanket and you might need to adjust the block so you can squeeze it between your legs here, point your toes back, and bring your hands beside your chest. So kind of a classic cobra shape with your elbows in towards your waist, take an inhale and squeeze your block with your legs and lift your face and chest away from the ground just an inch or 2, even if you could do more. And lower down.

Try to wake up your legs first and then lengthen through your spine and see if you can lift an inch 2 or 3. Lower down, release that squeezing of the block. Again, firmly squeeze the block with your legs lift. And and my observation, I'm lifting less when my legs are working lower down. Do this a few more times, and I'm noticing that it feels great to get my legs working maybe more than my back here. Lower down, see if you can use your legs more.

So there's less gripping of the back. One more lift. And then go ahead and lower. Now let's slide your arms up to your side for a moment. So I always call this goalpost arms forehead nose just above the ground, squeeze your block, and let's inhale lift your face and chest up Getting a little bit more lift now in the upper mid back and lower down.

2 more times squeeze your block. So strong legs as you lift maybe a little higher with the elbows wide, lower down, squeeze the block with your legs, little lifting up and lower. K. Now see if we bring the hands to touch the sides of your head and see if we can, from here, lift your elbows now. A little more strengthening of upper backs. Squeeze your block.

Lift your elbows. And lower down. We're back to maybe lifting an inch or 2 as you squeeze your block, lift your elbows, not lifting a whole lot, lower down. Start with your legs, lift your elbows, and then lift your nose and face. Lower down, last one.

Squeeze your block, lift your elbows, and then lift an inch or 2. Side the hands beside your chest, and we're gonna press back to your tabletop position. When you're in tabletop, bring your left hand a little forward of that shoulder line and grab the block with your right hand. I'm gonna set it down kinda under the shoulder line and hold the for a moment with your right hand. Take your left leg to the back of your mat so your toes are on the ground firm the front of your left thigh.

We hold that long edge of the block and reach it out in front of you, creating a little bit more challenge and core strength. Let's see if we wanna lift that back foot and play again with kind of a variation of hunting dog. We're gonna bring the block down and your foot down. Reach long as you again lift your back leg and front arm, and we'll come back down to touch the floor. Let's do 2 more. So maybe 4 total lift and lower.

One more strong left arm as you lift and then lower. Okay. So if you bring your left knee down, right hand down, transfer the block over to your left hand, and then take your right leg straight back. K. Kind of feel that alignment, straight, right arm. And can we now lift that left arm? Is that different than the right? Stay there or lift your back leg, and then we bring both back to the floor.

Start to lift and lengthen through that diagonal line, lower. 2 more. Look at the floors, you reach that right leg and left arm. Back to the floor, last one. Lift that back leg, perhaps, front arm floats, and then bring it back down. Let's bring your knees, maybe hip distance apart put that block about center at the top of your mat and hold that with your hands for a moment as you tip your hips back and go for a deeper side body stretch and that block might tilt a little bit towards you as you're reaching long.

So we're waking up the feet as with your toes curled under. Side body stretch, back body opens here. Now let's grab that block. The long edge, and let's lift it all the way up into the air as you rise up into more of a kneeling position. Keep your hand in the air, grab the block with your right hand, and bring it down towards your knee as you look towards the floor, kind of arching a bit over to your right side.

Lift that block back up in the air and transfer it into your left hand, right arm stays up as you drop the block towards your knee and look down. Bring it back up. Look forward. Transfer again to right hand. Bring that down to the right.

Look down. The block comes back up, look forward. Block is in the left hand as we bring it down to left knee, look down towards the hand, sweep it back up. One more time, kinda drawing that big circle around you, the block to right knee arch. Back to neutral, look forward, block in the left hand, look down as you reach up with the right hands, and we come up and hold that block above your head.

We're gonna take that down for a moment in front of you. And as you Put it in that tall position. Let's walk her hands towards the knees, and then we'll get rid of that blanket and fold it and set it to the sides. K. We're gonna grab that tall block whenever you're ready and step your feet forward and turn your toes out so you find your squat position where you hold the block and bring your hips towards the floor. So my hips are gonna stay about the height of my knees. We're gonna do something.

I think people call the wood chopper. We're gonna swing the block up into the air and come up to straight legs. Hold the block above your head. As you exit, we're gonna swing that block back as you look down, come back up to straight legs. Exhale look down as the block goes back and kinda play around with what feels like the right kind of momentum and swing for you.

Getting your legs a little bit more awake, spring in the ankles and the knees, move it in the shoulders. And, hopefully, the weight of the block is interesting for building a little bit more shoulder upper body strength. I think people do that with the kettlebells a lot as well. So maybe not looking back, but dropping down if you feel like looking back isn't working for you. You could look straight ahead. Let's do one more.

Just bring a little more energy into our practice. Now stay up and let your arms come down and see where your second block is. Okay. So we're gonna find second block and then turn and face the long side of your mat. Now when you have the blocks in your hands, separate your feet, maybe a little bit wider than your shoulders. I'm gonna turn the toes out and come into your high squat position. K. So let's have the hands hold that long side of the block, and you're squeezing them together, maybe down towards the pelvis.

Then I wanna invite you to open your arms. Our second move out to the side with your blocks about as high as your shoulders without moving your knees, we're gonna do a low rotation to your right, look toward that backhand, face forward, little rotation to your left, move those blocks away from your head, face forward. And as we bring those blocks together, we're gonna tip forward and you've got blocks for your hands as we stay in our bent leg position. So, different kind of a squat. Grab your blocks, squeeze them together, and we come up to straight legs. Come back into bent legs.

Open your arms out to your side, little rotation to your right, feel those core muscles engaging back to center, and a little rotation to your left. Back to center, blocks come down. We tip forward. We've got block for the hands will stay with bent legs as you look down, long spine, grab your blocks, squeeze them together, come up to straight legs. We'll come back to bent knees, open the arms out wide, little rotation without moving your knees, back to center.

Rotation to your left side. Back to center. Blocks towards the pelvis, tip forward, sitting, keep bent, legs look down. Hopefully, you're warming up. Grab your blocks, straight legs. Okay. So funny.

Wanna do it one more time. Right? Let's go back to bent knees. Open up nice and wides. Rotate as you send those blocks away from your head. Center. Turn to your left, center, blocks down, tip forward, And as we tip forward, let's indulge in a little bit of straightening of the legs that will hopefully feel great and let your feet get a little bit wider apart.

And with straight legs, looking down towards the floors. One moment here. Now believe it or not, we're gonna leave those blocks down as we maybe bring your hands to your hips and come up to stand for a moment. Let the arms float out to your sides and we'll start to bend your right knee and tip from the hips as you look down at the floor here. That right leg is bent.

Left leg is straight. Gather your hands at the heart as you lift back up. We'll start with your arms wide. A little bend of that left knee hind from the hips and with your arms wide look down, strongly grounding your feet. Hands at the heart as you lift back up, Can start with arms wide, right knee bends. We hinge and tip forward maybe parallel to the ground.

Hands at the heart come back up, arms wide, bend your left knee, hinge from the hips, look down, as that the heart come back up. So a little back strengthening, leg strengthening, all kinds of Great reasons to do this work. Arms wide. Hands as the heart come up. Arms wide. Bench your left knee.

Hinch from the hip and then hands at the heart. Alright. Let's bring your feet and legs a little bit closer together Just take a pause for a moment when your feet are maybe about as wide as your shoulders, and you might circle your hips around. Shoulders around and come just for a moment where you're grounded in, mountain pose. As you bring your feet and legs a little closer together, let's bend down, grab those blocks, and turn to face the short end of your mat. At this point, we're just gonna need one block and you're gonna choose medium or narrow width between the legs as we potentially hear face the short end of your mat.

As you stand, take a moment to confirm your feet are grounded as you slightly bend your ankles and knees. And squeeze that block with your legs. Keep your feet grounded as you sweep your arms out to the side and up. If it feels good, look a little bit up, Follow your hands towards your chest and then let all the air out as you exhale. Roach your hands on your thighs.

Squeeze your ball block and then round your as you look down, invite the navel to move again a little deeper towards your back. Soft bellies. So we sweep back up. Big inhale will come into what the Yogi's called Udiana bandhas. You exhale all the breath out, press against your knees or thighs, round, Take a little pause, navel towards spine. Squeeze your block as you're coming up. And think of squeezing the block as your hands come down, squeeze your block as you round.

Take that pause, soft belly, squeeze as you circle up. Hands towards the chest, exhale all the breath out, press against your legs, squeeze your block, round your spine here, Soft belly, circle up, and exhaling all the breath out. Take a little pause, navel in towards your back. Now let's stay here as you soften your belly and create a deeper bend of the knees, get your legs working more, see if you can rest your forearms for a moment on your thighs right above your knees, and give a little squeeze of the block. One more moment dropping your hips down and then transfer your fingertips to the floor as you work towards slightly straightening the legs.

It might not be a big straightening, but we're still squeezing the block as we lower the head down. So your legs are engaged as you fold forward. Take one more moment here. Now let's see if we can keep your block there and wiggle your feet back. So we're gonna work it back for a moment into a plank pose, walk your feet back, and then come into that plank position and try to feel you're moving the block towards the ceiling.

So as we engage those inner legs lift the block, and then bend your knees. Lift the block and bend the knees. And you can have the knees touch down and lift up these can touch down and lift up. And then coming a little bit deeper now into the abdominal area and shoulder area, really neutral in your torso. So the spine's not necessarily dipping at any point into a backbend.

Sue one more drop and lift. And when we bring the knees down, Let's move that block out of the way. And as you have that out of the way, let's go ahead from here and bring your elbows to the ground instead of your hands. Let's see if that feels a little more accessible. From here, we're gonna lift the knees, walk your feet closer together, So when your feet are closer together, we'll do a little more core work as we raise that right leg to fire up that right glute.

And then from here, slowly bring that right foot down to the floor by your left foot. Same leg. Press it back as you lift up. And keep pressing through the ball of that foot as you bring your lap right foot by your left foot. One more lift up. And then bring it down.

Transfer. Right foot stays down. Left foot press through the ball of the foot as you lift your leg up. And then slowly bring it down. The shoulders aren't moving. Press through that ball, that left foot.

Reach up. And come down. One more pressing through the ball of that left foot and then come down. Now drop your knees for a moment. Wiggle your elbows a little bit further forward so that you can come into more of forearm plank position.

Now the hips are gonna float a little bit up as we slide that right knee toward right elbow and then take that right leg back. Left knee toward left elbow. Take it back. So try you tried that one. Let's see if you like better.

Straight arms, some of you might, and you bring your right knee towards your right elbow, left knee toward left elbow. Come back and maybe put your knees down and decide which one you're gonna do two more times. So refresh your spread of hands or elbows around the ground. And let's fire up our practice here as we bring the right knee to right arm, step back, left knee to left arm, step back. One more, right knee to elbow or arm, step back, left knee, elbow or arm, and step back. And we are ready to come down to the floor with the pelvis.

Stretch your legs straight back. And please just simply stack your hands for a moment and have your elbows out wide. If you need more padding for the pelvis, grab your blanket, put it under your hips. So point your toes straight back and hands are stacked. Rest your forehead here.

Let's start bringing your right foot off the ground and lift your head and chest as you point your right foot towards the ceiling. Slowly drop that right foot as you lower your forehead. Lift your left foot up as you draw your head away from those steps. Hands and then lower down. Bend both legs and lift your face, press those elbows down.

And lower both legs. So the alternative variation is to stretch your legs out straight in front of you. So I feel like it's a little bit more challenging. So if you're bad, feel sensitive, stay where we were. Others might try from here to bend your right leg and now lift your left arm as you look forward.

Lower your right leg and left hand. Bend your left leg. Lift your right hand, maybe off the floor and look a little forward. And we lower down right leg bends, either look forward or lift your left arm up off the floor. And lower.

Left leg bends. Right arm maybe floats up and lower. Let's try a few more that opposite arm legs or right leg bends. Left arm comes up. We lower down.

Left leg bends, right arm floats up, and then lower down. It's all lift our feet off the ground. If you have bent legs, let's slowly take your gaze a little forward towards the front of your mat. And sweep your hands back towards the sides of your legs. Point your fingers towards your knees, and we go straight legs.

Arms sweep forward. Start it again with your feet lifting. Look a little bit forward with your eyes. Sweep your hands, maybe up a little higher towards your heels, legs down, arms in front of you. Again, toes point towards the ceiling.

Lift your gaze. We stay here or reach up. Squeeze between your shoulder blades as you look down, release back to the floor. Let's do one more, bend, the knees point your toes up. Look forward or sweep those arms back. A little strengthening here. Pause.

And then take your arms out in front of you and wiggle your hips here a little bit side to sides. Big belly breath in, big belly breath out. K. So whatever hand you wanna pull down towards your chest, please do. We're gonna flip over onto your back. And when you come down onto your back, let's go ahead and let your hands slide underneath the back of your head.

Alright. When your elbows are out to the side here, tip your knees towards your chest, and let's lift the legs up, and they don't have to be all the way straight maybe a little bend. Well, let's cross your right leg over your left leg. Kinda like you're doing a loose, eagle leg position, and then do a little curling of head, shoulders. Legs parallels as we come back to neutral. Left leg over right leg, kind of a loose eagle pose. Curl up.

Legs parallel. And when we cross the right leg over a second time, maybe we go a little bit more like eagle legs and curl up, likes parallel. Left leg over right, you do your binding variation that you like, a little lift, likes parallel. Stry a few more. Cross and lift.

We're back to neutral. Cross and lift. Neutral. Let's try 1 more. Cross and lift.

Neutral. Across and lift, and then we're back to neutral. Let's from here. Have your arms be out to your sides? And we'll get ready to drop.

Just your right leg down to the floor and lift it back up. Press your shoulders down as you bring your left leg down to the floor and up. Let's open the legs out to the side. Squeeze them back together. Right? Like, again, drops down, maybe right above the floor.

Come up, float your left leg just above the floor. Come up. Let your legs open out to the sides. Squeeze your legs back in one more time. Let that right leg hover just above the floor. And let's reach up, grab the back of that left leg and curl up. Legs back up in the air arms out to the side.

Drop your left leg just above the ground. Grab the back of that right leg and curl up. Arms wide, knees to chest. Let's squeeze the legs in and rock a little bit side to sides. Make any little adjustments that you need to to get a little bit more comfortable and maybe ready for a little mini rest before we come back up to sit.

Hey. What does your body need now 4, we get ready to put the feet down or legs straight and to take a moment of Shabasana just to check-in All the different muscles that you feel we've connected to today in practice. In general, how you feel after practicing for about a half hour. Hopefully, we like the way we feel. So remember, that reminds us again to come back to our practice again soon. Whenever you're ready to turn to whatever side is easiest for you to turn towards.

And we'll work our way up towards sitting and always again, good idea to arrive before you leave so you get yourself settled. Feel that great posture that I oftentimes, even myself, on a daily basis, just touch the crown of my head, lift my head into my fingertips until I feel, again, a longer spine and my ears lined up with my shoulders. And then try to keep that impression in my muscle memory as I hold the knees back still doing some work. K. And may we walk through the day with this posture ingrained in our muscle memory? And I wish you a wonderful day.

Thanks so much for being here. Namaste.


Jenny S
3 people like this.
This was a very unique class!  Challenging and innovative, yes - but also 6 words I don’t think I’ve ever said before: This Core Class Felt So Good!  😅  Bravo to you, Melina - you’ve done it again!
Lauri K
1 person likes this.
You’re so wonderful thank you
Melina Meza
Thank you both for making my day and for doing the deep dive into this core practice. May it serve you well as we move deeper into the winter season!
Christel B
1 person likes this.
Just perfect for awakening  the body and creating warmth and flexibility.
Laura M
2 people like this.
This was a great core practice. I used my cork instead of foam blocks, and it made all the difference in the extra weight. I like how the practice built up slowly and had some intense moments in there as well. Thanks Melina!
Melina Meza
Isn't it amazing how much harder the poses are with cork blocks! I'm with you in noticing the difference and perhaps by next might even move to 1-2 lb weights, my current love. Thanks for giving this a try and I hope it becomes one of your regular classes this winter.
Anne J
1 person likes this.
LOVED this practice, Melina! 
Melina Meza
Thank you Anne!!!! Sending you warm wishes from Oakland.

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