2 Internal Oblique
3 External Oblique
4 Rectus Abdominus
This is a long flat muscle that is divided into four bellies by horizontal fibrous bands, giving it a "washboard" appearance. It originates bilaterally from the pubic symphysis and pubic crest, inserting on the xyphoid process (at the bottom of the sternum) and, more laterally, the cartilage of the fifth, sixth and seventh ribs.
Contracting the rectus abdominus flexes the trunk forward, or, if the insertion is fixed, lifts the pelvis. This is demonstrated in utthanasana and tolasana respectively. Tightness in this muscle limits the depth of backbends such as urdhvadhanurasana and purvottonasana.
Contracting the rectus abdominus also compresses the abdominal contents, producing an "air bag" effect, which is thought to prevent hyperextension of the lumbar spine, protecting it when extended (as in backbends).
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