The following blog post was originally a message board post I made on the Yoga Lover's team page.
I have a strong yoga practice. I practice Baptiste Power Vinyasa Flow in a heated studio 5 or 6 times a week. I've been seriously practicing for 6 years. When I began I was quite strong: bodyweight circuits, calisthenics, and free weights. I was also underweight. Although I didn't have much fat on me I had distended abs. My midsection was like a rock, I did so much ab work. Obsessive, yes. I didn't know why my guts protruded. They didn't in earlier days.
Six years later, I'm not underweight. Every Baptiste practice has a section devoted to core work and I continue to excel with that. For years I have worked on jumping back into chaturanga from bakasana. I am still not able to do this. I know that this explosive movement comes from the core. I work and work on my core with uddiyana bandha (upward abdominal lock), posture, navel to spine, and ab exercises. Nonetheless, this transition eludes me. Many arm balances also are very difficult for me. I've been told by my teacher that I easily have the strength for them. What is required is to activate my core. Yet, my core is so strong! Or so I thought. Oh, and in slender times, my distended midsection is quite apparent.
I began researching. I've recently learned about inner and outer abdominals. The Rectus Abdominus, strengthened by crunches, are external abs. The Transversus Abdominus and Lumbar Multifidus are the inner abdominal muscles.
"...These muscles are rarely discussed, and the most neglected. These muscles lie beneath the Rectus Abdominus and External Obliques. The inner abdominal muscles support posture and control deep breathing during power movements, such as heavy squats. They are responsible for back support. Since they are rarely targeted, they are often weaker. By building a stronger inner abdominal wall, you can limit and relieve back pain, create a tighter midsection, and add explosive power to your training. "
And: "...Crunches, sit-ups, and even many pilates moves cause the abdominal wall to bulge forward, straining the connective tissue that runs up and down the center of your rectus abdominis (the six-pack muscles). Yes, those exercises strengthen your abs, but they do so at the expense of your connective tissue. Repeated forceful stress on that tissue will physically separate the muscles, a medical condition known asdiastasis recti. This tends to obliterate the waistline, leaving fit women with what we call an “athletic build” (no curves), and men with a paunch. Sit-ups and crunches are not the only culprit... so is pregnancy. The majority of pregnancies result in diastasis recti, wreaking havoc on a formerly firm, flat stomachs."
Whether from pregnancy or exercise, has anyone else dealt with a weak core, distended midsection, difficulty doing transitions or asanas that require a great deal of core? Am I on the right track?
From my research I see that there are exercises to strengthen the traverse abdominis. The uddiyana bandha engagement in yoga parallels the isometric work done in these exercises. I'll let you know how things progress. I would love to know others' experiences.