Say goodbye to crunches for good!
Yoga’s wide variety of poses ensure you work on all aspects of core strength, including obliques, deep core muscles and superficial core muscles. And the best part is you don’t even need a gym membership for core strength training—it can all be done from home!
The Importance of Core Yoga
Core strengthening yoga poses do more than give you a toned abs for your summer vacation. A strong and healthy core is crucial for maintaining an active lifestyle free of pain.
Your core is central to your being (hence the name ‘core’) and keeping it active and strong will improve your balance, posture and even prevent incontinence (yikes!). When your core is weak, you may have pain and injuries from the tiniest motions, deal with incontinence and even have trouble performing sexually.
Core Strength Yoga Poses
Core activation is central to a healthy yoga practice. You often hear, “engage your core to protect your lower back” in yoga classes because most yoga poses (even the ones you don’t expect) use core strength! Be mindful to breath and consciously engage your core muscles in each of the following yoga poses.
Plank Pose & Variations (Phalakasana)
Plank Pose is one of the most common core exercises in both yoga and exercise in general. Plank Pose, Side Plank and Dolphin Plank all use core muscles and can be held for longer periods to increase intensity. Start practicing Plank Poses on your knees and work up to a full-body plank. Try holding for 10 seconds when you first practice Plank Poses and eventually work up to a minute.
Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Downward-Facing Dog doesn’t initially seem like a core-strenghing yoga pose, but trust us, it is. To access your deeper core muscles in this pose, it’s crucial to lift your sit bones and rotate them towards the sky. This flattens your lower back and engages those deep core muscles! If you want to get a true core workout, transition to three-legged downdog and exhale to draw your lifted knee to your chin, rounding your back. Repeat for three rounds on each leg.
Boat Pose is a challenging full-body pose that engages your core muscles even in modified variations. You engage your core muscles to balance but also work your legs and arms.
Modify this pose by starting with your hands behind you on the floor and/or bending your knees. Gradually work up to full Boat Pose by drawing your belly button to your spine to engage your lower abs and find stability. Be mindful to lengthen through your spine and lift your heart to the sky to avoid hunching.
Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
Bridge Pose is a stabilizing yoga pose that isolates your glutes, hamstrings and abdominal muscles while stretching your legs and hip flexors. You can easily incorporate it into your yoga practice, workouts or cool-down routine. Modify Bridge by placing a block under your sacrum for support.
Upward Facing Forward Bend (Urdhva Mukha Paschimottanasana)
A progression from Boat Pose, Upward Facing Forward Bend may look graceful and easy, but it requires a decent level of flexibility and core strength to maintain the pose. With a focus on straightening and lengthening, this pose achieves a deep stretch throughout the backs of the legs, while also engaging the core for stability.