8 Yoga Poses for a Stronger Core
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8 Yoga Poses for a Stronger Core

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By Deborah Wilburn

When you think “core” you probably think abs. But you may be surprised to learn that your core is your entire body—from your neck down to your pelvis—minus your arms and legs. A strong core is essential not just for holding in your tummy, it stabilizes the central part of your body where all movement begins. Strong back muscles protect your back from injury. Toned glutes help prevent knee problems. Better posture helps keep your head and spine properly aligned, sparing you from a world of back and neck pain.

Do this yoga sequence, created by certified yoga instructor Theresa Brennan, three times a week to build confidence and strength from the inside out.

Easy Pose (Sukhasana)

2 / 9 Easy Pose (Sukhasana)

This pose looks effortless, but sitting with your spine lifted takes core strength – and yours will improve as you practice this pose. Starting with Easy Pose also helps you relax and let the worries of the day drift away.

How to do it: Sit up straight on the floor or a mat with your legs crossed in front of you. If your back slouches forward, try sitting on a folded blanket or bolster. Keep your shoulders relaxed and down. Place your hands on your knees with palms facing upward. Gently close your eyes and focus on your breath: Slowly inhale and exhale three to five times.

Boat Pose (Ardha Navasana)

3 / 9 Boat Pose (Ardha Navasana)

Strengthen your abs and spine for better posture with Boat Pose.

How to do it: Sit on the floor with legs stretched straight in front of you. Lean back and place your hands on the floor slightly behind your hips, arms straight and fingers pointed forward. Exhale, bend your knees and lift your feet. Your thighs should be at about a 45-degree angle to the floor. Extend your arms in front of you, reaching out through your fingertips. If holding this pose is difficult, you can modify it by holding onto the backs of your thighs. Hold the pose for three to five breaths.

Two Knee Spinal Twist Pose Variation (Supta Matsyendrasana)

4 / 9 Two Knee Spinal Twist Pose Variation (Supta Matsyendrasana)

Instead of lowering your knees to the floor in the classic Two Knee Spinal Twist, you’ll leave them lifted, giving your obliques a good workout.

How to do it: Lie on the floor or a mat. Lift both feet and bend your knees. Your shins should be parallel to the floor. Open your arms to the side, palms down. On your next exhale, contract your abs and move your knees to the right, stopping at about 2 o’clock. Your knees and feet should be stacked on top of each other. Hold for three to five breaths. Inhale and move your knees back to center. Exhale and move your knees to the left, stopping at about 11 o’clock. Hold for three to five breaths. Return to center and repeat on each side.

Dolphin (Makara Adho Mukha Svanasana) and Plank (Kumbhakasana)

5 / 9 Dolphin (Makara Adho Mukha Svanasana) and Plank (Kumbhakasana)

Plank Poses can’t be beat when it comes to strengthening your middle. 

How to do it: Dolphin Pose (top photo): Start in Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana). Inhale, then lower your forearms to the ground one at a time, engaging your abs and glutes. Push your heels back. Hold the pose for five breaths. 

Plank Pose: Start in Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana). Shift forward so that your shoulders are over your wrists. Spread your fingers wide and distribute your weight evenly through the surface area of each hand. Keep your abs engaged, arms straight and press the mat away from you. Hold the pose for five breaths.

Yogic Bicycles

6 / 9 Yogic Bicycles

The slow, side-to-side movement of the yogic bicycle works your obliques, which run along the sides of your abs. Be sure to keep your upper back lifted as you cycle from side to side.

How to do it: Lie on your back and draw your knees towards your chest. Interlace your fingers and place them behind your head. Take a deep inhale, then on the exhale lift your upper back off the floor. Extend the right leg straight and crunch to the left, bringing your right elbow towards your left knee. Hold the position for three to five breaths. Switch sides, extending the left leg straight, bringing your left elbow towards your right knee and holding it for three to five breaths. Repeat on both sides.

Cat Pose Variation (Marjaryasana)

7 / 9 Cat Pose Variation (Marjaryasana)

This Cat Pose variation not only helps whittle your middle, rounding your back gives your torso a good stretch and gently massages your spine.

How to do it: Come onto your hands and knees into a tabletop position, arms about shoulder-width apart. Inhale, then extend your right arm straight ahead and your left leg behind you, parallel to the floor. On an exhale round your back up, drop your chin to your chest and take your right elbow towards your lifted left knee. Return to the tabletop position. Inhale, extend your left arm straight ahead and your right leg behind you. Round your back and move your left elbow towards your lifted right knee. Repeat the sequence three to five times.

Side Plank Pose (Vasisthasana)

8 / 9 Side Plank Pose (Vasisthasana)

This pose may be challenging to hold at first, but your confidence will grow as your muscles become stronger.

How to do it: Begin in Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana). Turn to the right, stacking your legs on top of one another. Engage your abs and glutes to lift your torso. Firm the triceps of your supporting arm and press your index finger into the ground to help maintain the pose. Don’t worry if your arm jiggles; it takes time to build strength. Lift your top arm straight up if you like, or rest it on the side of your body. Hold the pose for 15 to 30 seconds, then go back to Downward Facing Dog. Turn to the left to repeat on the other side.

Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

9 / 9 Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

End the sequence with Mountain Pose, a standing pose that, like its name, reflects the strength you’re building. Standing tall like a mountain also improves your posture.

How to do it: Stand with your feet about a foot apart. Hold your arms a few inches from your sides, fingers spread wide. Gently close your eyes. Bring energy to the pose by firming your thighs and pressing your shoulder blades back, opening your chest. Stay focused (no thinking about your grocery list just yet!) by imagining a line of energy moving through your body, starting at your feet and leaving through the crown of your head. Hold the pose for five breaths, slowing inhaling and exhaling.