Contrary to what we might think, having a strong core goes beyond defined abs; in fact, it involves a network of muscles surrounding the spine, abdomen, and pelvis.
These muscles, including the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, obliques, erector spinae, multifidus, pelvic floor, and gluteal muscles (more than you thought, right?), are constantly working together to provide stability, support, and control in almost all of our daily movements.
Understanding and strengthening these muscles is super important for improving and maintaining our posture, preventing injuries, and enhancing the overall function of our bodies.
While pilates often gets the rep for a good core workout, yoga’s mindful focus on activating deep core muscles through its dynamic poses and controlled movements makes it an underestimated method for core strengthening.
To prove it to you, we’re here to help you find some great yoga poses for the core. In this article, we’ll be looking at:
- 3 reasons to strengthen your core
- How to warm up and cool down after a core session
- 10 yoga poses for the core
3 reasons to strengthen your core
#1: Injury prevention and improved functionality:
A strong core helps to provide stability and support to the spine, pelvis, and surrounding joints. This stability in turn helps prevent excessive movements or misalignments that can lead to injuries during physical activities or daily movements.
The core muscles act as a protective shield, particularly for the spine – so the stronger they are, the more protected you’ll be. They help distribute forces and absorb impact, reducing the load on spinal structures and minimizing the risk of spinal injuries during our activities.
#2: Alleviation of low back pain and posture improvement:
A strong core can do wonders for our posture, by stabilizing and supporting the spine while helping to distribute weight effectively.
Studies show that this also helps to reduce strain and pressure on the lower back and shoulders, reducing the risk of back pain – contributing to proper alignment during whatever activities the day might throw at you.
#3: Overall performance enhancement and ease of activity
Having a strong and flexible core is essential for a huge range of daily activities. Whether it’s bending to tie your shoes, twisting to look around, sitting, or even standing still, your core muscles are involved.
A strong core enables better control and coordination of our movements by allowing for efficient transfer of forces between the upper and lower body, optimizing movement patterns and reducing the likelihood of compensatory movements that can lead to injuries.So, by prioritizing core strength you’re helping to establish a stable base for your body and enables you to engage in exercises with greater efficiency and effectiveness.
Yoga Poses for The Core: How to warm-up and Cool Down
Tips for warming up
When preparing for a yoga core workout, it’s important to kick things off with movements that awaken your spine as well as the trunk of your body.
I’d recommend starting with a gentle flow of cat-cow stretches, followed by some dynamic twists and soft side bends, which will help to gradually building up your core engagement.
Yoga poses for the core don’t just target your core muscles, but will also call on other tissue groups, too – making it important to invigorate your entire being. For this, take a few energizing rounds of Sun Salutations A, allowing your body to really warm and limber up.
Oh, and don’t forget to connect with your deep core muscles through mindful rounds of abdominal breathing exercises! This will also help to calm and focus your mind, which is the real goal of any yoga sequence.
Tips for cooling down
Yoga teachers are always saying how important savasana is – and they’re right!
Don’t deny yourself a long savasana in either a comfortable seated or lying position. Use the moment to meditate and savor a few peaceful, deep, diaphragmatic breaths and allow your body to release any lingering tension.
Finally, remember to replenish your body with lots of water and hydrating fluids and maybe even a nutritious, cruelty-free post-workout snack to support your well-deserved recovery.
8 yoga poses for the core
Please note that the duration and repetitions mentioned below are general guidelines. Be sure to listen to your body continually and adjust according to your own level of strength and comfort.
Oh, and remember that it’s important to focus on quality rather than quantity, so focus on maintaining proper form throughout each pose.
I also recommend checking out our pose library for each yoga pose for the core mentioned below to help you learn more about alignment, contraindications, targeted muscles, and more.
#1: Boat Pose (Navasana):
- Sit on the mat with your legs extended in front of you.
- Bend your knees and lift your feet off the ground, so that you form a V shape balancing on your sitting bones.
- Extend your arms straight in front of you, parallel to the floor.
- If your find this easy, you can try to straighten your legs so that the toes point to the sky, while maintaining a straight back.
- Hold the pose for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- Aim to repeat the pose 3-5 times, gradually increasing the duration as you build strength.
Common mistakes: Rounding the back or collapsing the chest.
Doing it right: You should feel your abdominal muscles engaged, and your spine should be straight. Your body should form a “V” shape.
#2: Plank Pose (Phalakasana):
- Begin in a full push-up position with your toes tucked and hands directly under your shoulders and legs extended behind you.
- Keep your body in a straight line, engaging your core muscles.
- Start by holding the pose for 30 seconds and gradually work your way up to 1-2 minutes.
- Perform 3-5 repetitions, taking short breaks in between if needed.
Common mistakes: Sinking or raising the hips too high.
Doing it right: Your body should form a straight line from your head to your heels. Your core should feel activated, and your shoulders should be aligned with your wrists.
#3: Side Plank (Vasisthasana):
- Start in a plank position, then shift your weight onto your right hand and the outer edge of the right foot.
- Stack your left foot on top of the right and lift your left arm straight up towards the ceiling.
- Begin with 20-30 seconds on each side, then progress to holding for 1 minute or longer.
- Repeat 3-5 times on each side, alternating between left and right.
Common mistakes: Collapsing or sinking into the supporting shoulder.
Doing it right: Your body should be in a straight line, and your core should be actively supporting the pose. Your shoulders, hips, and feet should be stacked.
#4: Boat Pose with a Twist (Navasana Bent Knees Variation):
- Begin in a seated position with your legs extended in front of you.
- Lift your feet off the ground, bend your knees, and balance on your sitting bones.
- Twist your torso to the right, bringing your left elbow to the outside of your right knee.
- Hold the twist for 20-30 seconds and then repeat on the other side.
- Aim to perform 3-5 repetitions, alternating sides.
Common mistakes: Collapsing the chest or rounding the back.
Doing it right: Your oblique muscles should feel engaged, and your spine should be lengthened. Your chest should be open, and your shoulders relaxed.
#5: Upward Plank Pose (Purvottanasana):
- Sit on the mat with your legs extended in front of you, hands resting on the floor behind you with fingers pointing towards your feet.
- Press through your hands and lift your hips off the ground, coming into a reverse tabletop position.
- Start by holding for 20-30 seconds and gradually increase the duration to 1 minute.
- Perform 3-5 repetitions, taking breaks as needed.
Common mistakes: Sinking the shoulders or neglecting to engage the core.
Doing it right: Your hips should be lifted, and your core should actively support your body. Your shoulders should be drawn back, and your chest should be open.
#6: Forearm / Dolphin Plank Pose (Makara Adho Mukha Svanasana):
- Begin by placing your forearms on the mat, elbows directly under your shoulders.
- Step your feet back, keeping your body in a straight line from head to heels.
- Engage your core muscles and avoid dropping your hips or raising them too high.
- Hold the pose for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- Aim for 3-5 repetitions, gradually increasing the duration as you build strength.
Common mistakes: Allowing the hips to sag or raising them too high.
Doing it right: Your body should be parallel to the ground, and your core should be actively involved. Your shoulders should be stacked above your elbows.
#8: Knee to Elbow Plank Pose (Phalakasana):
- Start in a high plank/press-up position with hands under shoulders and legs extended.
- Maintaining a flat back, lift your right foot, bend the knee, and bring it toward your right elbow. For an extra challenge, try to bring the knee towards the opposite elbow or even chin.
- Hold briefly, engaging your core.
- Return the right leg to the starting position then repeat the movement with your left leg.
- Alternate between legs for 10-20 repetitions.
Common mistakes: Rounded back or collapsed shoulders, hips lifted too high or sinking too low and lack of core engagement.
Doing it right: Straight alignment from head to heels, knee close to elbow, engaged core, controlled movements without instability.
If you’ve enjoyed this article on yoga poses for the core, check out some of our other pose guides below: