By Elizabeth Towe
In this exercise we are adapting a basic core exercise to practice achieving ‘Flow’ state when you do any activity. The key concept is to allow your mental focus to turn inward to your breath, and use stability, not rigidity to hold your plank. The goal: pay attention to the rhythm of the breath without trying to change or control it. Once you have your attention on the breath, time the movement to match your natural rhythm of breathing. This practice of a seemingly simple and surprisingly challenging concept during core exercise can improve performance in all exercise.
- Begin by lying prone, shoulders propped up on forearms, pelvis and belly on the floor. Notice your breathing and the lift that occurs with the inhale, a slight pause, the relaxation and letting go the occurs with the exhale and another slight pause before the next inhale starts.
- When you can follow your breath pattern, then lift up into a plank. You can go into forearms and knee support, forearms and feet or hands and feet; whichever version you are most comfortable with.
- As you feel your body lift with the inhale, exaggerate the motion and lift your pelvis and torso slightly in time with the inhale. Pause when the inhale finishes and hold until the exhale naturally begins.
- As the exhale begins, relax and slightly lower to the starting position. Pause as the exhale ends and hold until the inhale naturally begins.
- As you become comfortable with the lifting and lowering matching the natural breath, you can begin to add the challenge of shifting toward one leg with the inhale cycle and relaxing to both legs with the exhale. Alternate legs with each inhale.
- Repeat the exercise until muscle fatigue, loss of mental attention or the overwhelming desire to control your breath to match the movement instead of allowing the movement to match the breath interferes with the quality of the repetitions.
- When any of these conditions occur, relax completely to a position flat on the floor, recover your breath and then lift and practice some more. Just 2-5 minutes of total practice and have great benefits.
Elizabeth Towe is a runner and a cyclist and the owner of Balanced Movement Studio in Carrboro. She graduated from East Carolina with a degree in exercise and sports science and has been personal training for over 20 years. Her ultimate goal for all of her clients is to help them realize and achieve the optimal quality in their life – and to remember to have fun doing it.