Building Core Strength to Alleviate Back Pain

One of the most valuable things I learned in yoga teacher training is that we strengthen our back by strengthening our core. You might be thinking, "Well, duh, dumbass," but my brain just doesn't work like that. Much as our back and core are obviously physically connected, for some reason the collaborative relationship between them just never occurred to me before that particular anatomy lesson.

I bring this up because a couple of weeks ago I went to get a massage. I was counting down to this couple of hours at the spa like a kid counts down to Christmas. Raising Izzy is much like raising Curious George. Ninety-nine percent of the time, I love this quality of hers, but when it gets difficult is when I'm carrying her around. She wants to look in all directions at once, which involves contorting her body, and using the weight of her head to fling herself around while I do a series of very non-ergonomic acrobatics to hold on to her for dear life. This has resulted in the most sore, stiff back and limited range of motion I have ever known.

I've been to this masseuse before, and she's good. She was great this time as well. She gave me an awesome massage, which essentially consisted of a 90-minute period of her untangling the one gigantic knot that currently comprises my back, and attempting to reposition my shoulders from up by my ears to somewhere below my neck.

But the next day I discovered that, despite the bodywork, I was only moderately better off. The bottom line is, my body taken a beating, and it's going to take more than a couple of massages to reverse the damage.

While I miraculously lost most of my baby weight from Izzy, what I have not regained at all is my core strength, which was shredded during pregnancy. Post-massage, I realized that I was going to have to get serious about addressing this issue not for a six-pack (that would involve the absence of ice cream from my life, which ain't gonna happen), but for living my life in a comfortable way. Also, I've found myself really missing the general fluidity that I once had.

I hate, hate, hate crunches (which can actually do a lot more harm than good, anyway), so my answer for this has been YogaGlo, which I've mentioned before on the DIY self-care page. I so desperately want to get to a yoga studio, but waiting for that magical moment to happen in the midst of freelancing and child-rearing is--at least right now--an exercise in futility. So, YogaGlo has been a good answer for me in the interim.

Right now, I'm doing YogaGlo's Two Weeks to Your Strongest Core program. I'm on my seventh class out of eight right now. What I've really liked about these classes is that they're fifteen minutes per session--totally doable. I can feel the effects of them for the next day or two after practicing. But, man, they're hard. Sometimes I find myself wanting to reach through my screen and punch the very chipper instructor in the face. Which is a sure sign it's working, I'm sure.

However, I do have a sneaking feeling that it's going to take more than two weeks to achieve my strongest core, so if you have any tips for core strengthening (that don't involve crunches!) I'd love to hear them!