Let’s unpack yoga for core strength.
When most of us hear the word core, we think ABS!
What springs to mind is all those HIIT workouts and lifting weights trying to get that six-pack.
I don’t know how many sit-ups I did and planks I held with not much of a result over the years.
Well, developing your core is much more than that!
Working the core is way more important for ALL the muscles than just developing those abs.
After years of trying different forms of exercise to strengthen my core, I found yoga.
There is a big misconception that yoga is not for building strength, that it’s too slow, and more for relaxation.
Let me tell you, that couldn’t be further from the truth!
I was skeptical at first and definitely did not turn to it to strengthen my core.
But, low and behold, as my yoga practice developed and with no real conscious effort, I found that my core was becoming stronger and more toned!
Many people might not know that your core is going to be engaged in most yoga poses to ensure that you perform the posture safely.
So, while you’re doing postures that don’t seem that intense, your core is getting a little workout!
In this article, we are going to look at:
- What IS the CORE
- The benefits of strengthening your core.
- The BEST yoga for core strength poses for a killer yoga core workout.
- How to perform them and their benefits.
What is the Core?
A lot of people think of their abs when they hear the word core.
So it’s a lot more than just your abs!
Working your core is not only great for ABS but more importantly for your entire TORSO.
Your core links the upper and lower body together, so a strong foundation is crucial for any activity!
Strengthening your abs and back creates a healthy spine which is necessary for all of us.
Especially with so many of us now working at desk jobs and hunched over our computers daily.
To prevent any nasty back problems, we should all try to get some core work in.
My guru always said ‘If you want to make your body healthy, make your spine healthy’ and the best way to support your spine is by strengthening your core!
The Benefits of Strengthening Your Core through Yoga
There are countless benefits to incorporating yoga for core strength poses.
Here are some of them:
- Your abdominal muscles will support the natural curve of your vertebral column and spine.
- Improves your posture.
- It will help to eliminate back pain.
- Better balance.
- Great for any of you that have taken up more outdoor activities over the lockdowns!
- By strengthening the core muscles, it will improve digestion and elimination.
- Strengthening the pelvic floor muscles can also increase sexual fulfillment!
8 BEST Yoga For Core Strength Poses
Ready for a yoga core workout?
Here it is!
#1: Upward Boat Pose (Paripurna Navasana)
1. From a seated position, bend the knees and bring the feet flat to the floor with the legs together.
2. Draw your shoulder blades together, lift through the sternum and lean back slightly, making sure you keep your back straight.
3. Slowly begin to straighten the legs, pushing through the heels and lifting the legs up as high as comfortable. If that is not possible, keep your knees bent, with your shins parallel to the floor.
4. Extend both arms forward alongside the legs, parallel to the floor, with your palms facing in. Keeping your chest open and your spine long.
5. Hold the pose for 5-8 breaths.
- Strengthens your core, thighs and arms.
- Boosts energy.
- Improves digestion, increasing digestion power.
#2: Half-Boat Pose With a Twist (Ardha Navasana)
1. Begin in boat pose with your legs fully extended and your arms at shoulder height in front of you.
2. Bend your knees and bring your hands to the middle in prayer position.
3. You can also hold an imaginary or real ball, to ramp the intensity up!
4. Move your knees to the right while reaching your arms to the left, and slowly lower your torso halfway back down.
5. Come back to the starting position and stay here for a couple of breaths.
6. Repeat on the other side.
This can be done as many times as you like.
- Great for your core, especially your oblique muscles!
- Increases your confidence.
- Improves your balance.
#3: Staff Posture (Dandasana)
1. Sit with your legs extended in front of you.
2. Place your hands behind your hips with your fingers pointed forward.
3. Get heavy in your hip bones and reach the crown of your head up to lengthen the spine.
4. Roll your shoulders back and down, staying open in the chest.
5. Press your heels away from you and pull your toes towards your head.
6. Hold for 5-8 breaths or longer.
This is a nice and gentle pose but really does work those core muscles and is great for your spine.
- Strengthens back muscles and core.
- Lengthens and stretches the spine.
- Helps improve posture.
#4: Plank (Phalakasana)
1. Begin on all fours, with your shoulders in line with your wrists.
2. Engage your core by drawing your belly button toward your spine.
3. Extend your legs back one at a time with your toes tucked.
4. Keep your spine long and neutral with your arms and core engaged.
5. Hold for 4-8 breaths.
- Strengthens your core.
- Boosts your metabolism.
- Alleviates stress.
#5: Side Plank (Vasisthasana)
1. From the plank pose, keep your core engaged while turning onto the outside edge of your right foot and stacking your left foot on top of your right.
2. Shift your weight to your right hand and raise your left hand to the ceiling, opening your body to the left.
3. If you want to add extra stability, bend your left leg and keep your left foot on the floor.
4. Hold for 4-8 breaths.
If you want a bit more movement in this pose, you can thread the needle. Bring your left hand under your body, past your right arm and stretch it up again.
- Improves core strength.
- Strengthens and tones your arms, shoulders and back.
- Great for concentration and focus.
#6: Upward-Facing Plank (Purvottanasana)
1. Begin in Dandasana (Staff Posture) with legs together and stretched out in front of the body.
2. Bring your hands in line with your hips, fingertips pointing forward.
3. Press the feet towards the ground and lift the hips upwards.
4. You can keep your head neutral or you can drop your head back and extend the neck.
5. Be careful not to crunch in the spine.
6. Hold for 5-8 breaths.
- Full body strengthener.
- Stretches your spine, back and legs.
- Balances the nervous system, alleviating symptoms of mild depression and fatigue.
#7: Warrior III (Virabhadrasana III)
1. From Mountain pose, inhale and raise your arms above your head.
2. You can interlink your fingers or use kali mudra (steeple grip).
3. Slowly begin to stretch your body forward while simultaneously raising your left leg straight back.
4. Keep your toes flexed or pointed.
5. Your body should be in a straight line from the tips of your fingers to your toes.
6. Gaze down at one point (Drishti) to hold your balance!
7. Breathe and hold the posture for 5-8 breaths.
Don’t worry if you fall out of it, it’s hard to get your balance at first.
- Strengthens the entire body.
- Improves focus, balance and stability.
- Encourages good circulation throughout the body and respiration.
#8: Dolphin pose (Ardha Pincha Mayurasana)
1. Begin on your hands and knees, with your wrists directly under your shoulders, and your knees directly under your hips.
2. Lower your elbows to the floor directly under your shoulders.
3. Tuck your toes and lift your knees off the floor. Reach your pelvis up toward the ceiling while drawing your sit bones back.
4. Slowly straighten your legs while keeping your shoulders broad and your spine lengthened.
6. Hold for 5-8 breaths.
This is a tough one so ease yourself slowly out of it and don’t hold it for too long!
Take a round of breaths in Child’s Pose (Balasana) after.
- Great whole body workout.
- Opens the shoulders, armpits, and upper back.
- Tones the core and back muscles.
Always remember when practicing to be kind to your body and listen to it!
After all, you know your body best!
If something is uncomfortable, come out of the pose and don’t hold a pose if it is painful.
Yoga is not about pushing yourself.
The aim is to perform each posture with sukha which means “comfortable, happy and relaxed”!
As you build your strength, you can increase the number of breaths you take and hold the pose for longer!
If you’re working in an office, why not try these 9 Best Chair Yoga Poses You Can Do At Your Desk!
Remember, our fitness is not about the destination but the journey!
Try to be patient with your body.
Trust the process and have fun!