Yoga poses to strengthen your core is vital. Our core lets us walk, run, exercise, do any athletic activity without injury. It is not about the look of your abs but about the strength that is lurking beneath the surface.
Having a strong core is key to Yoga success even though it is not something anyone can see. Yes, you can work out and get a great sixpack look but that is not core strength.
Yoga Poses That Strengthen Your Core
Yoga is best known for mediation, stretching, lengthening your body and mental benefits. The yoga poses are all unique. But, without a strong core, they will not prove successful or helpful. The core provides the strength to do any type of exercise and is not unique to Yoga.
From the time you begin using Yoga, the first practice is to always pull in your lower back. This is a core muscle building practice. It is associated with the “Uddiyana Bandha” or an abdominal lock.
This is key to building a strong core. While locked you are always working your core muscles. Memorize this and use it in every asana. It is as important as proper breathing technique to Yoga poses success.
8 Core Building Poses
A sequence of 8 yoga poses designed to strengthen your core. These are not designed to build muscle. But, instead to shape and tone your core providing you with a nice flat tummy.
Do these in succession and try to hold each pose for 30 seconds. Do the workflow two times in succession at least three times a week.
As always, if you are new to Yoga poses do only what you can do comfortably. Having a helper or spotter is always recommended for difficult yoga poses. At least until you are comfortable with them.
Yoga Poses To Strengthen Your Core: #1 Boat Pose
- Begin seated with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, hands resting beside your hips. Draw your awareness inward and focus on your breath. Allow your inhalations and exhalations to be smooth, calm, and even.
- Keep your spine straight, lean back slightly and lift your feet. Bring your shins parallel to the floor.
- Draw in your low back, lift your chest, and lengthen the front of your torso. Then, extend your arms forward, in line with your shoulders with your palms facing each other.
- Balance on your sit bones, keeping your spine straight. Take care not to let your lower back sag or chest collapse.
- Lengthen the front of your torso from your pubic bone to the top of your sternum. The lower belly (the area below your navel) should be firm and somewhat flat, but not hard or thick.
- With an exhalation, straighten your legs to a 45-degree angle from the ground. Bring your body into a “V” shape.
- Keep your breath easy, steady, and smooth. Focus your awareness within. Soften your eyes and your face. Gaze at your toes.
- Spread your shoulder blades wide and reach out through your fingers. Engage your hands.
Stay in the pose for five breaths, working up to one minute. To release the pose, exhale as you lower your legs and hands to the floor.
Yoga Poses To Strengthen Your Core: #2 Standing Star
- Begin with the Mountain Pose or Tadasana
- Move your right foot three to five feet to the side. Both your feet should be parallel to each other with all toes pointing forward.
- Raise your arms to the sides at shoulder height with the palms facing down.
- Keep your shoulders down and back and keep your chest open and facing the center of the room.
- To ensure that your lower back is not over-arching, tuck in your tailbone.
- At this point, press your feet into the floor and feel yourself rooted to the floor.
- Inhale deeply and extend the crown of your head towards the ceiling.
- Look straight ahead of you with your chin always parallel to the floor.
- Stretch out at your sides through your fingertips almost as if you are trying to touch the side walls.
Yoga Poses To Strengthen Your Core: #3 Chaturanga
- Ease into the Plank Pose. Make sure the outer edge of your shoulders is in the same line as your middle fingers on the floor.
- Spread out your fingers such that they are wide and slightly curled. Grip the floor with the corners of your hands so that a small pocket of air is trapped between your palms and the mat.
- Inhale and stretch from the heels to the crown of your head.
- Exhale and lower your body slowly into half a push-up, such that the upper arms are parallel to the floor.
- The tips of your elbows must lightly touch the sides of your ribs. Lower yourself to maintain a 90-degree angle in the crook of the elbows.
- Hold the asana, but continue to stretch from the heel to the crown. Your shoulders must be drawn in and plunged into the back.
- Exhale and release. Come back into the Plank Pose.
Yoga Poses To Strengthen Your Core: #4 Bird Dog
- Kneel on an exercise mat or floor. Position your knees and feet hip-width apart, with your feet dorsiflexed
- Lean forward to place your hands on the mat. Your knees are directly under your hips and hands are directly under your shoulders.
- Stiffen your core and abdominal muscles to position your spine in a neutral position. Avoid any excessive sagging or arching.
- This exercise involves the simultaneous movement of your leg and opposite arm. This is best performed facing a mirror.
- Slowly extend your left hip (raise and straighten the knee). Attempt to extend it until it is at, or near parallel, to the floor without any rotation in the hip. Your goal is to keep both hips parallel to the floor. Place a light bar across the hips, parallel to the waistline of your pants. It provides visual feedback to hip rotation and what corrections are needed.
- Slowly flex your right arm (raise and straighten the arm). Attempt to raise it until it is at, or near parallel, to the floor without any tilting at the shoulders. Your goal is to keep both shoulders parallel to the floor. Place a light bar across the shoulders. It provides visual feedback to shoulder rotation and what corrections are needed. Your head should remain aligned with the spine throughout the movement.
- The ability to control against movement in the low back determines the degree of hip extension and shoulder flexion. As the leg is raised, individuals may witness an increase in low back sagging. Only raise the limbs to heights where the low back position can be maintained. Use the combined actions of the core and abdominal muscles.
- Gently lower yourself back to your starting position. Repeat with the opposite limbs.
The bird-dog is an excellent exercise to train the body how to stabilize the low back. Especially during upper and lower extremity movement. Never exceed your body’s capacity to control movement in the low back.
Yoga Poses To Strengthen Your Core: #5 Warrior 3
- Stand in Mountain Pose, exhale and fold forward to Uttanasana. From Uttanasana, exhale and step your left foot back into a high lunge position. Your right knee should be more or less at a right angle.
- Lay the midline of your torso down on the midline of the right thigh. Bring your hands to your right knee, right hand to the outer knee, left hand to the inner. Squeeze the knee with your hands. Lift your torso slightly, and with an exhalation, turn it slightly to the right.
- From the lunge position, stretch your arms forward. They should be parallel to the floor and parallel to each other, palms facing each other.
- Exhale and press the head of the right thighbone back and press the heel actively into the floor. Synchronize the straightening of the front leg and the lifting of the back leg. As you lift the back leg, resist by pressing the tailbone into the pelvis.
- Don’t allow the torso to swing forward as you move into position. As you straighten the front knee, think of pressing the head of the thighbone back. This centers the femur in the hip joint grounds the heel into the floor and stabilizes the position.
- The arms, torso, and raised leg should be positioned relatively parallel to the floor. Release the hip [of the raised leg] toward the floor until the two hip points are even and parallel to the floor.
- Energize the back leg and extend it strongly toward the wall behind you. Reach in the opposite direction with the arms. Bring the head up slightly and look forward, but be sure not to compress the back of your neck.
- Stay in this position for 30 seconds to a minute. Release back to the lunge on an exhalation.
- Bring your hands to the floor on either side of the right foot. On an exhalation, step your left foot forward to meet your right. Stay in this forward bend for a few breaths, then repeat for the same length of time on the other side.
Yoga Poses To Strengthen Your Core: #6 Side Plank Scoop
- Begin in a full side plank position with right hand below the shoulder. The left arm reaching high above the left shoulder and legs long. (Place bottom knee onto mat if needed)
- Tighten abdominals and slowly scoop left arm under the body. Follow with your eyes until you see behind you.
- Slowly reach the left hand back to start position.
- Repeat for the desired number of repetitions and switch sides.
Yoga Poses To Strengthen Your Core: #7 Crow Pose
- Come into a low squat with your heels lifted and your feet hip-width apart. Place your elbows on the inside of your knees, in the flat surface just above the bend of the knee. Push your elbows out and lift your hands up so that the palms of the hands are facing forward.
- Lean gently forward. Place your hands on the floor shoulder-width apart in front of you, and not below your shoulder. Don’t jump into this position! Keep your head lifted.
- Push your hands into the floor. Lift your hips and bend your elbows until they are creating a 90-degree angle.
- Lift your right foot up slowly, as you continue to activate your arms and core. Hold here for a moment so that you can make sure you are stable.
- Now, it’s time to lift up your left leg and find your balance and leverage. Maintain those arms at that 90-degree angle. Keep looking forward in front of your hands.
- Take 5 deep breaths here, or as many breaths your body can do today.
- Gently place your feet back on the floor one at a time. Start with holding the pose for one second, and keep moving your way up, second by second as you build up strength. Take time to rest your wrists.
Yoga Poses To Strengthen Your Core: #8 Windshield Wiper
- Lay down on your back. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor as wide as your yoga mat. Your toes should be pointing straight ahead.
- Find a neutral position with your pelvis. There should be a slight space between your lumbar spine (behind your belly button) and the floor.
- Take a few deep breaths into your belly. Your groins and upper inner thighs softening towards the floor with every exhale.
- Maintain the position of your feet as wide as the mat. On an exhale allow both knees to drop over to the left.
- Take a few deep breaths here. Have the sensation that your breath is smoothing out the tightness.
- Repeat for the right side. On an exhale allow both knees to drop over to the right.
- Take a few deep breaths here. Have the sensation that your breath is smoothing out the tightness.
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